John Merle Coulter

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John Merle Coulter
Born (1851 -11-20)November 20, 1851
Ningbo, China
Died December 23, 1928(1928-12-23) (aged 77)
Nationality American
Fields Botany
Author abbrev. (botany) J.M.Coult.

John Merle Coulter, Ph. D. (November 20, 1851 – December 23, 1928) was an American botanist and educator.[1][2]:57–9 In his career in education administration, Coulter is notable for serving as the president of Indiana University and Lake Forest College and the head of the Department of Botany at the University of Chicago.

Early Life & Education[edit]

John Merle Coulter was born in Ningpo, China to missionary parents Caroline Elvira Crowe and Moses Stanley Coulter. His brother was the botanist Stanley Coulter. He graduated from Hanover College in Indiana receiving the degree A.B. in 1870, A.M. in 1873, and Ph.D. in 1883.[3]:471 Indiana University conferred a pro merito Ph.D. to Coulter in 1884 while he was serving as Professor of Botany at Wabash College.[3]:472 He married Georgie M. Gaylord of Delphi, Indiana on January 1, 1874.[3]:474


John Merle Coulter held the following positions:

Memberships in scientific societies[edit]

In 1901, Coulter was the general secretary of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and in 1918 served as the Association's president. From 1897 to 1898, he was the president of the Botanical Society of America.[3]:472

Survival of the sinking of The Republic[edit]

In 1909, Coulter and his wife, along with their children Grace and Merle, survived the sinking of the White Star liner Republic in which six were killed.

Notable works[edit]

John Merle Coulter's published works include:

  • Synopsis of the Flora of Colorado (1874), with Thomas Porter and Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden
  • Manual of Rocky Mountain Botany (1885; revised, 1909)
  • Manual of Texan Botany (1892–93)
  • Plant Relations (1899; third revision, 1910)
  • Plant Structures (1899; second edition, 1904)
  • Morphology of Spermatophytes (1901)
  • Morphology of Angiosperms (1903), with C. J. Chamberlain
  • Plant Studies (1902; revised 1905)
  • A Text-Book of Botany for Colleges and Universities(two volumes, 1910–11)
  • Elementary Studies in Botany (1913)
  • Plant Breeding (1914)
  • Evolution, Heredity and Eugenics (1916)
  • Religion and Science (1923)

In 1875, Coulter founded the Botanical Gazette and thereafter continued to be its editor.[3]:474

Legacy and contributions[edit]

As president of Indiana University[edit]

Coulter's student, Henry Chandler Cowles played a significant role in documenting the ecological importance of the Indiana Dunes.[4] Many conservationists attempted to preserve parts of the Indiana Dunes.[4][5][6]


  1. ^ "COULTER, John Merle". The International Who's Who in the World. 1912. p. 319. 
  2. ^ Makers of American Botany, Harry Baker Humphrey, Ronald Press Company, Library of Congress Card Number 61-18435
  3. ^ a b c d e f Myers, Burton Dorr (1951). Officers of Indiana University 1820-1950. Indiana University. 
  4. ^ a b Smith, S. & Mark, S. (2009). The Historical Roots of the Nature Conservancy in the Northwest Indiana/Chicagoland Region: From Science to Preservation. The South Shore Journal, 3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-01-01. Retrieved 2015-11-22. 
  5. ^ Smith, S. & Mark, S. (2006). Alice Gray, Dorothy Buell, and Naomi Svihla: Preservationists of Ogden Dunes. The South Shore Journal, 1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-09-13. Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  6. ^ Smith, S. & Mark, S. (2007). The cultural impact of a museum in a small community: The Hour Glass of Ogden Dunes. The South Shore Journal, 2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-11-30. Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  7. ^ IPNI.  J.M.Coult. 

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
David Starr Jordan
President of Indiana University
Succeeded by
Joseph Swain