Job Bicknell Ellis

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Job Bicknell Ellis
Job Bicknell Ellis.jpg
Born (1829-01-21)January 21, 1829
Potsdam, New York
Died December 30, 1905(1905-12-30) (aged 76)
Newfield, New Jersey
Residence USA
Nationality American
Fields Mycology
Known for Collecting and classifying Ascomycetes, particularly Sordariomycetes
Author abbrev. (botany) Ellis

Job Bicknell Ellis (January 21, 1829 – December 30, 1905) was a pioneering North American mycologist known for his study of the Ascomycetes, especially the grouping of fungi called the Pyrenomycetes (known today as the Sordariomycetes). Born and raised in New York, he worked as a teacher and farmer before developing an interest in mycology. He collected specimens extensively, and together with his wife, prepared 200,000 sets of dried fungal samples that were sent out to subscribers in series between 1878 and 1894. Together with colleagues William A. Kellerman and Benjamin Matlack Everhart, he founded the Journal of Mycology in 1885, forerunner to the modern journal Mycologia. He described over 4000 species of fungi, and his collection of over 100,000 specimens is currently housed at the herbarium of the New York Botanical Gardens. Ellis had over 100 taxa of fungi named in his honor.


Ellis was born in Potsdam, New York on January 21, 1829 to parents Freeman Ellis and Sarah Bicknell. He was the tenth child of fourteen. In 1851, He graduated from Union College in Schenectady, New York, the same institution attended by lichenologist Edward Tuckerman (A.B. 1837) and mycologist Charles Horton Peck (A.B. 1859). Bicknell began an erratic career as a classics teacher and farmer in New York, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. He became the principal of the Canton Academy in 1856, the same year he married Arvilla Jane Bacon, who became his lifelong assistant and collaborator. Their daughter Cora was born on January 12, 1857; she later became a professional musician in New York. It was around this time that Bicknell started developing his interest in botany, by collecting plants with fellow teachers on weekends. He saw a copy of Henry William Ravenel's Fungi Caroliniani Exsiccati, a set of dried specimens (exsiccati) collected from North Carolina and area. Ellis initiated a correspondence with Ravenel, and established a friendship that lasted until Ravenel's death in 1887.[1]

Ellis taught in a public school in Potsdam village in 1863,[2] and later served on the Union side in the American civil war from 1864 to 1865.[3] He served on the steam frigate USS Susquehanna of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, and was present during the bombardment of Fort Fisher on December 24–25, 1864 and January 13–15, 1865, when the Fort was captured. The war took its toll on his spirits; his April 22, 1865 diary entry reads: "I have felt degraded ever since I have been here & no amount of money & I might perhaps safely say no motive not even patriotism will ever induce me to put myself in the like position again."[1] He was discharged from the Navy on May 18, 1865, and returned to Potsdam.[1] After the war Ellis settled in Newfield, New Jersey, where he lived until his death.[2]

Although he did not have any formal training as a botanist or mycologist, Ellis gradually took up mycological fieldwork and ultimately dedicated his life to the collection and exchange of dried fungal specimens. He created reference collections that were sold in sets of one hundred, or "centuries". The most important of these were the Fungi Nova-Caesarienses (Fungi of New Jersey) (1878) and the North American Fungi, issued in series from 1878 to 1894.[2] The complete set of exsiccati numbered 3200 specimens.[4] The obituary of his wife, who died on July 18, 1899, elaborated her devotion to his work:

Besides binding many of her husband's books and pamphlets, she prepared some three thousand blank books in which the North American Fungi were issued and in which the greater part of the Ellis collection was mounted. Besides this she arranged at least three fourths of the 200,000 specimens which were issued in this series and in the Fungi Columbiani, folding papers, inserting specimens, pasting labels and inserting in their places.[5]

He was exceedingly timid and shrinking, but possessed of a charming personality,
and by his lovable disposition endeared himself to all who knew him.

Curtis Gates Lloyd[6]

Based in Newfield, New Jersey, Ellis maintained an extensive correspondence with many renowned American and European mycologists. In 1880, Ellis began to receive financial support from Benjamin Matlock Everhart, a wealthy merchant of Westchester, Pennsylvania. Together they co-authored North American Pyrenomycetes (1892). With William A. Kellerman, Ellis and Everhart founded the Journal of Mycology in 1885, a forerunner to Mycologia. Most of the articles in the first issues were written by Ellis. He published many of his newly discovered species in the journal, as well as the Botanical Gazette, Torrey Bulletin, American Naturalist, and Proceedings of the Philadelphia Academy. In 1896, near the end of his life, Ellis sold his collection of over 100,000 specimens to the New York Botanical Garden for its Cryptogamic Herbarium, including the types of 4,000 new species described by Ellis and his collaborators.[7] The Garden Library also received a "large cache" of his letters in 1983.[8] Ellis was a prolific author, and published over 500 scientific articles. He died December 30, 1905 in Newfield.[2]

Memberships and societies[edit]

Ellis was honored by several scientific societies. In 1878, he was elected a corresponding member of Philadelphia's Academy of Natural Sciences. In August 1882 he was elected a corresponding member of the Cryptogamic Society of Scotland and in December of the same year was elected a corresponding member of "Die Kaiserlich-Königliche Zoologisch-Botanische Gesellschaft in Wien".[2]

Eponymous taxa[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Kaye GC. (1986). "Job Bicknell Ellis 1829–1905". Mycotaxon. 26: 29–45. Retrieved 2010-07-05. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Kellerman WA. (1906). "Obituary: Job Bicknell Ellis". Journal of Mycology. 12 (2): 41–45. JSTOR 3752618. 
  3. ^ Kirk PM, Cannon PF, Minter DW, Stalpers JA (2008). Dictionary of the Fungi (10th ed.). Wallingford: CABI. p. 230. ISBN 978-0-85199-826-8. 
  4. ^ Ainsworth GC. (1976). Introduction to the History of Mycology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 289. ISBN 0-521-11295-8. 
  5. ^ Underwood LM. (1899). "Mrs. Arvilla J. Ellis". Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 26 (10): 553. JSTOR 2478278. 
  6. ^ Lloyd CG. (1915). "J.B. Ellis". Mycological Notes. 39: 526. 
  7. ^ Holmgren PK, Kallunki JA, Theirs BM (1996). "A short description of the collections of the New York Botanical Garden Herbarium". Brittonia. 48 (3): 285–96. doi:10.1007/bf02805288. JSTOR 2807788. 
  8. ^ Anon. (1983). "News and Notes". Taxon. 32 (2): 339–344, 347. JSTOR 1222017. 
  9. ^ IPNI.  Ellis. 

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