Isabella Aiona Abbott (June 20, 1919 – October 28, 2010) was an educator and ethnobotanist from Hawaii. The first native Hawaiian woman to receive a PhD in science, she became the leading expert on Pacific algae.
Abbott was born Isabella Kauakea Yau Yung Aiona in Hana, Maui, Territory of Hawaii, on June 20, 1919. Her Hawaiian name means "white rain of Hana" and was known as "Izzy". Her father was ethnically Chinese while her mother's ancestry was predominantly Native Hawaiian. Her mother taught her about edible Hawaiian seaweeds.
She grew up in Honolulu, and graduated from Kamehameha Schools in 1937. She received her undergraduate degree in botany at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa in 1941, a master's degree in botany from the University of Michigan in 1942, and a Ph.D from the University of California, Berkeley in 1950. She married zoologist Donald Putnam Abbott (1920–1986), who had been a fellow student at the University of Hawaii as well as Berkeley. The couple moved to Pacific Grove, California where her husband taught at the Hopkins Marine Station run by Stanford University. Since at that time women were rarely considered for academic posts, she spent time raising her daughter Annie Abbott Foerster, while studying the algae of the California coast. She adapted recipes to use the local Bull Kelp (Nereocystis) in foods such as cakes and pickles.
In 1960 she started teaching summer classes as a lecturer at Hopkins. She compiled a book on Marine algae of the Monterey peninsula, which later was expanded to include all of the California coast. In 1972 Stanford took the unusual step of promoting her directly to a full professor. In 1982 both Abbotts retired and moved back to Hawaii, where she was hired by the University of Hawaii to study ethnobotany, the interaction of humans and plants.
She authored eight books and over 150 publications. She was considered the world's leading expert on Hawaiian seaweeds, known in the Hawaiian language as limu. She was credited with discovering over 200 species, with several named after her, including the Rhodomelaceae family (red algae) genus of Abbottella. This has earned her the nickname "first lady of limu".
In 1997 she received the Gilbert Morgan Smith Medal from the National Academy of Sciences. In 2008 she received a lifetime achievement award from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources for her studies of coral reefs.
She was the G. P. Wilder Professor of Botany from 1980 until her retirement, and then was professor emerita of Botany at the University of Hawaii. She served on the board of directors of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum. In November 1997 she co-authored an essay in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin criticizing the trustees of Kamehameha Schools, which led to its reorganization.
- Isabella A. Abbott (1961). On Schimmelmannia from California and Japan.
- Gilbert Morgan Smith; George J. Hollenberg; Isabella A. Abbott (1969). Marine algae of the Monterey peninsula, California. Stanford University Press.
- Isabella A. Abbott; Munenao Kurogi (1972). Contributions to the systematics of Benthic Marine Algae of the North Pacific: Proceedings of a seminar on the contributions of culture, laboratory, field and life history studies to the systematics of benthic marine algae of the Pacific ; Japan–U.S. cooperative science program, August 13–16, 1971. Sapporo, Japan: Japanese Society of Psychology.
- Isabella Aiona Abbott; Eleanor Horswill Williamson (1974). Limu: an ethnobotanical study of some edible Hawaiian seaweeds. Pacific Tropical Botanical Garden.
- Elmer Yale Dawson; Isabella Aiona Abbott (March 1, 1978). How to know the seaweeds. W. C. Brown Company. ISBN 978-0-697-04892-9.
- Isabella A. Abbott; Michael S. Foster; Louise F. Eklund (March 6, 7, 8, 1980). Pacific seaweed aquaculture: proceedings of a symposium on useful algae. Pacific Grove, California: California Sea Grant College Program, Institute of Marine Resources, University of California. Check date values in:
- Isabella Aiona Abbott (March 1992). Lā'au Hawai'i: traditional Hawaiian uses of plants. Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum Press. ISBN 978-0-930897-62-8.
- Isabella A. Abbott; George J. Hollenberg (August 2, 1992). Marine Algae of California. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-2152-3.
- Isabella A. Abbott (1995). Taxonomy of Economic Seaweeds With reference to some Pacific species. California Sea Grant College Program. Eight volume series from an international workshop hosted by the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, July 1993
- Isabella Aiona Abbott (1999). Marine red algae of the Hawaiian Islands. Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum Press. ISBN 978-1-58178-003-1.
- Isabella Aiona Abbott; John Marinus Huisman (April 2004). Marine green and brown algae of the Hawaiian Islands. Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum Press. ISBN 978-1-58178-030-7.
- Isabella Aiona Abbott; Roger R. B. Leakey (June 2006). Craig R. Elevitch, ed. Traditional trees of Pacific Islands: their culture, environment, and use. Permanent Agriculture Resources. ISBN 978-0-9702544-5-0.
- Michael Tsai (July 2, 2006). "Isabella Abbott". Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved November 4, 2010.
- Kevin Howe (November 17, 2010). "'Seaweed lady' Isabella Abbott dies: Scientist studied algae at Hopkins Marine Station". Monterey Herald. Retrieved December 8, 2010.
- Bergeron, Louis (December 7, 2010). "Isabella Abbott, world-renowned Stanford algae expert, dies at 91". Stanford Report (Stanford University). Retrieved December 7, 2010.
- "Memorial Resolution: Donald Putnam Abbott 1920–1986". Retrieved December 8, 2010.
- Jennifer Crites (October 21, 2010). "Pioneering professor is first lady of limu". Malamalama: The Light of Knowledge (University of Hawaiʻi). Retrieved November 4, 2010.
- "Gilbert Morgan Smith Medal". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
- "Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox: Guest Isabella Abbott". PBS Hawaii. June 17, 2008. Retrieved November 4, 2010.
- Cindy Cha (August 27, 2008). "Dr. Isabella Abbott honored for lifetime devotion to coral reefs". KHNL. Retrieved November 4, 2010.
- "Emeriti Faculty". University of Hawaii catalog. 2005. Retrieved November 4, 2010.
- "Dr. Isabella A. Abbott". University of Hawaii Botany department faculty profile. Retrieved July 30, 2014.
- Isabella Aiona Abbott, Winona Beamer, Gladys A. Brandt, Roderick F. McPhree and Winona Ellis Rubin (November 27, 1997). "Schools' gross mismanagement must stop: Tyranny, distrust, poor decisions reign at Kamehameha". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved December 10, 2010.
- "Six named Living Treasures". Honolulu Advertiser. January 16, 2005. Retrieved November 4, 2010.
- Leila Fujimori (October 31, 2010). "Algae expert meshed science and native culture". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Retrieved November 4, 2010.
- "Author Query for 'I.A.Abbott'". International Plant Names Index.