JOHN JULIUS WURDACK

Photo of John Wurdack

John was born April 28, 1921, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He graduated with “High Honor” from Carrick High School, Pittsburgh in 1938. In 1942, he received a BS degree in botany at the University of Pittsburgh and was drafted to serve as a sanitary engineer during World War II. In 1946, he was assigned to Parnamirim Air Field, Natal, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil and collected plants. Later from 1946 to 1948 he was posted to Japan and also visited China and Japan. In 1949, he earned a second BS degree in sanitary engineering at the University of Illinois and took a job as technical assistant at the New York Botanical Garden. In 1952, he received his PhD degree, with a dissertation on a revision of the Andean genus Brachyotum (Melastomataceae) published in 1953. He undertook 11 major expeditions to Venezuela.

In 1960 he became associate curator at the U.S. National Herbarium, now in the National Museum of Natural History, and undertook his last major expedition to the Marañon River in Peru.

He was a charter member of and very active in the American Rock Garden Society.

He retired in 1991, but came to work every day until the last years. He died of cancer May 13, 1998, in Lanham, Maryland. His son Kenneth was a guest at many Island outings and is currently a member.

He was elected to the Washington Biologists' Field Club in 1961 and was a faithful attendee of all workdays and outings. One of his special delights was collecting bags of rich, river-deposited sandy loam near Plummers Island. He was remembered for his willingness to help colleagues with natural history issues and his gravelly voice.