Cornelius Herman Muller
After graduating from the University of Illinois in 1938 with a Ph.D. in Botany, Muller worked for the Illinois Natural History Survey for one year and then for the US Department of Agriculture in various capacities from 1938-1945. Summers were usually spent on plant collecting trips to Mexico, the Southwest, and the southern United States. His work focused on vegetation studies in Texas and Mexico and most prominently on oaks. Muller married Katherine Kinsel, also a botanist, who directed the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden from 1950-1973. She was a partner with her husband in much of his vegetation studies and oak collecting trips, sharing in the creation of the extensive field notes found in this collection. He and Katherine also collaborated on a publication about Jean-Louis Berlandier's plant collecting in Mexico in the 1820s. Muller died in Santa Barbara on January 26, 1997 at the age of 88.
From 1938 to 1942 Muller worked for the USDA Division of Plant Exploration and Introduction, naming and classifying plant specimens. As a result of this work, he published A Revision of the Genus Lycopersicon and The Central American Species of Quercus. During World War II, he worked for the Bureau of Plant Industry on the Special Guayule Research Project on a series of experiments on root development. His results were published in the USDA Technical Bulletin 923 entitled Root Development and Ecological Relations of Guayule. In 1945 he began teaching at the University of California, Santa Barbara (then known as Santa Barbara College). He helped develop the botany major in 1947 and taught various courses in botany and ecology until 1976 when he retired from UCSB. He continued in a teaching capacity as Adjunct Professor of Botany at the University of Texas from 1974 to 1992.
Muller founded UCSB’s Herbarium in the early 1950s and was Curator from 1956 to 1964. In addition to his teaching duties during his years at UCSB, Muller conducted numerous research studies, funded partly by four National Science Foundation grants, on allelopathic mechanisms in California plant communities and systematics and evolution of the species Quercus. He published over 110 articles and books, peer reviewed numerous articles and proposals, and supervised and worked with over 15 graduate students. He published two monographs: The Central American Species of Quercus and The Oaks of Texas as well as provided treatments for the genus in Arizona Flora, Flora of Panama, Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas, and Flora North America.
Throughout his career, Muller took collecting trips to Costa Rica, Cedros Island off of Baja California, Texas, Southern California, and Mexico, and went twice to Europe in the 1950s to study oak specimens at various herbaria. In the course of his years at UCSB, Muller deposited over 15,000 oak specimens in the UCSB Herbarium, including 90 type specimens.
Awards and honors
Muller was named Faculty Research Lecturer in 1957, the third faculty member at UCSB to receive the title, honoring distinguished research achievement both locally and abroad. In 1975 Muller was honored for his work in ecology by being named Eminent Ecologist for 1975, a prestigious award given by the Ecological Society of America. He was also honored for his work in oak systematics by having two plants named after him: Quercus cornelius-mulleri and Quercus mulleri. The library at UCSB's Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration is named in his honor.
- Biography by R.H. Whittaker at Ecological Society of America
- The Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration at UCSB