A Brief Biography of Honorary Degree Recipient Edward G. Voss '50
Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan
by Fleur W. Metzger
Denison University Publications Editor
With a distinguished career in both natural history and systematic botany, Edward G. Voss '50 is a nationally recognized scholar, teacher and regional leader in conservation.
His monumental three-volume work, Michigan Flora, was the culmination of 40 years of collecting, identifying and describing more than 2,500 seed-bearing plants that are native to Michigan. The three volumes, published in 1972, 1985 and 1997, respectively, include descriptions, illustrations, taxonomic keys and 2465 maps of documented distributions for all known seed plants in the state. The volumes have proved essential to environmental consultants, persons responsible for threatened and endangered species, wildflower enthusiasts, photographers and environmental lawyers and have enabled intelligent amateurs as well as botanists to identify any flowering plant in Michigan.
Born in Delaware, Ohio, in 1929, Voss spent his boyhood in Toledo. His early interest in plants and insects began at his family's cottage in Mackinaw City, Mich., where he spent summers collecting caterpillars, moths, butterflies and plants. After earning a bachelor's degree in biology with honors from Denison in 1950, Voss continued his education at University of Michigan, earning a master's degree in biology in 1951 and a Ph.D. in botany in 1954.
He joined the University of Michigan in 1956 as a research associate at the Herbarium and was appointed assistant professor in 1960, promoted to associate professor in 1963 and professor of botany in 1969. Many of his former students have gone on to distinguished academic careers of their own, including directorships of several herbariums and the chair of botany at the Academy of Natural Sciences.
Voss served as curator of vascular plants from 1961 until his retirement in 1996. He spent 35 summers teaching at the University of Michigan Pellston Biological Station at Douglas Lake introducing generations of biologists from all over the country to field botany. Voss' scientific interests also include entomology and he has published several studies of moths.
Since being awarded emeritus status from the University of Michigan in 1996, Voss has given illustrated lectures on botanical history and/or plants of the Great Lakes Region to both professional and nonprofessional groups. He has led field trips for such groups as the Little Traverse Conservancy and the Michigan Botanical Club. He is also continuing his plant research, working in collaboration with A.A. Reznicek on a one-volume condensation and updating of Michigan Flora.
Voss is a life member of the International Association for Plant Taxonomy, the Lepidopterists' Society and the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters, as well as The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club and Wilderness Society. He served as Vice Rapporteur for the Bureau of Nomenclature's XI and XII International Botanical Congresses and the Rapporteur for the XIII Congress in Sydney, Australia, in 1981. He was also secretary of the General Committee on Botanical Nomenclature from 1969 to 1987.
Voss was secretary of the editorial committee of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature from 1969 to 1981 and its chairman from 1981 to 1987. He was on the editorial board (1972-75) and editorial committee (1990-93) of Systematic Botany Monographs, the publication of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists. Since 1976, Voss has served on the editorial board of The Michigan Botanist, the publication of the Michigan Botanical Club, and was its editor from 1962 to 1976.
A member of the American Commons Club during his undergraduate years at Denison, Voss later became an officer of the national American Association of Common Clubs and its archivist. He was awarded an Alumni Citation from Denison in 1975. His sister Eleanor Hendricks '56 of Dayton, Ohio, has returned to Denison for today's Commencement ceremonies.