Michael Proctor (botanist)

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Michael Charles Faraday Proctor PhD (21 January 1929 – 24 October 2017) was an English botanist and plant ecologist, lecturer, scientific author based at the University of Exeter.[1][2][3] He retired from his post as Reader in Plant Ecology at Exeter University in 1994.[4]

M.C.F. Proctor published more than 100 research papers,[5] and was regarded as one of Britain's pre-eminent plant ecologists.[6][7] In 1968 he revised and updated Arthur Tansley's book 'Britain's Green Mantle'.[8] He was a contributing author to all of the five volumes of the definitive work on British Plant Communities, edited by J.Rodwell (1991-2000), and also wrote three books in the New Naturalist Series: two on pollination, and one on the vegetation of Britain and Ireland.

Academic career[edit]

Proctor studied botany, zoology and chemistry for his undergraduate degree at Cambridge University,[9] then did research on rock-roses (Helianthemum).[9] In 1956 he published a significant work on the bryophyte flora of Cambridgeshire, which embodied "the accumulation of Cambridgeshire bryophyte records begun by Prof. P.W. Richards in 1927".[10] Proctor’s flora set out the history of bryophyte recording in the vice-county of Cambridgeshire and provided a guide to the main habitats.[11] It was the first detailed account of the bryophytes of that county since 1820, when the third edition of Relhan’s Flora Cantabrigiensis was published.[10]

Proctor's interest in insects and pollination ecology dated from his student days, shared with Peter Yeo at Cambridge, and with whom he remained a life-long friend.[12][1] After leaving Cambridge, Proctor was employed by the Nature Conservancy in North Wales for two years,[9] before joining the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Exeter in November 1956[13] where he taught botany and ecology until retiring in September 1994.[9] His main research interests have included distribution and ecophysiology of bryophytes,[14] especially with reference to the Dartmoor oakwoods such as Wistman's Wood; the vegetation and water chemistry of blanket bogs and mires,[14] plus the distribution, ecology and physiology of the filmy ferns, Hymenophyllum tunbrigense and H. wilsonii.[14]

Proctor was editor of Watsonia, the journal of the then Botanical Society of the British Isles from April 1961 to July 1971.[15][16]

Honours and recognition[edit]

Proctor was a foreign member of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences[9][17] as well as being an honorary member of the Hungarian Society for Plant Physiology.[9][18] He was also a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society,[9][19] a founder member of the Devon Wildlife Trust,[9] and between 1969 and 1981 he was a trustee of Paignton Zoo, and was reappointed trustee again in 1991.[9]

His contribution to botany and to the study of Whitebeam (Sorbus spp) in particular is honoured in the naming of a species of hybrid Rowan, of which only one plant is known to exist in the wild.[20] Proctor’s Rowan (Sorbus x proctoris T.Rich) has Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia L.) and Sichuan Rowan (S. scalaris Koehne) as its parents and was discovered in the Avon Gorge.[20]

The standard author abbreviation M.Proctor is used to indicate this person as the author when citing a botanical name.[21]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Ivimey-Cook, R.B.; Proctor, Michael (1966). The Plant Communities of the Burren, Co. Clare. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy.
  • Proctor, Michael (1956). "A bryophyte flora of Cambridgeshire". Transactions of the British Bryological Society. 3: 1–49. doi:10.1179/006813856804829723.
  • Proctor, Michael (1957). "Helianthemum Mill: Biological Flora of the British Isles". Journal of Ecology. 78: 575–592. doi:10.2307/2256855.
  • Proctor, Michael (1960). "Mosses and Liverworts of the Malham District". Field Studies. London: Headley Bros. 1: 61–85.
  • Proctor, Michael (1967). "The Distribution of British Liverworts: A Statistical Analysis". Journal of Ecology. 55: 119–135. doi:10.2307/2257721.
  • Proctor, Michael; Yeo, Peter (1973). Pollination of Flowers. Harper Collins. ISBN 0002131781.
  • Proctor, Michael (1974). "The vegetation of the Malham Tarn fens". Field Studies. Faringdon. 4: 1–38.
  • Proctor, M.C.F.; Spooner, G.M.; Spooner, M. (1980). "Changes in Wistman's Wood, Devon: photographic and other evidence". Transactions of the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science. 112: 43–79.
  • Proctor, Michael; Yeo, Peter; Lack, Andrew (1996). The Natural History of Pollination. London: Harper Collins New Naturalist.
  • Proctor, Michael (2003). "Comparative Ecophysiological Measurements on the Light Responses, Water Relations and Desiccation Tolerance of the Filmy Ferns Hymenophyllum wilsonii Hook. and H. tunbrigense (L.) Smith". Annals of Botany. 916: 717–727. doi:10.1093/aob/mcg077. PMC 4242359. PMID 12714369.
  • Proctor, Michael (2013). Vegetation of Britain and Ireland. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-00-220148-3. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  • Rich, T.; Houston, L.; Robertson, A.; Proctor, M. (2010). Whitebeams, Rowans and Service Trees of Britain and Ireland. BSBI Publications. ISBN 9780901158437.
  • Rodwell, J.S., ed. (1991). British Plant Communities Volume 1. Woodlands and Scrub. ISBN 0521235588.
  • Rodwell, J.S., ed. (1991). British Plant Communities Volume 2. Mires and Heaths. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-39165-2.
  • Rodwell, J.S., ed. (1992). British Plant Communities Volume 3. Grasslands and Montane Communities. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-39166-0.
  • Rodwell, J.S., ed. (1995). British Plant Communities Volume 4, Aquatic Communities, Swamps and Tall-Herb Fens. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-39168-7.
  • Rodwell, J.S., ed. (2000). British Plant Communities Volume 5. Maritime Communities and Vegetation of Open Habitats. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521644761.


  1. ^ a b Marren, Peter (15 November 2017). "Michael Proctor obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  2. ^ Michael Charles Faraday
  3. ^ "Dr Michael Proctor Honorary Research Fellow". University of Exeter. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  4. ^ "University of Exeter Fellow publishes third contribution to prestigious New Naturalist series". University of Exeter. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  5. ^ "Michael Charles Faraday Proctor, University of Exeter,, Exeter". ResearchGate. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  6. ^ "Vegetation of Britain and Ireland (Collins New Naturalist Library, Book 122)". bol.com. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  7. ^ Lack, Andrew. "Book Review: Vegetation Of Britain & Ireland (New Naturalist)". British Trust for Ornithology. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  8. ^ Tansley, Arthur (1968). Proctor, Michael (ed.). Britain's Green Mantle: Past, Present and Future (2nd ed.). London: George Allen & Unwin.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i "MICHAEL PROCTOR". Paignton Zoo. Archived from the original on 20 September 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  10. ^ a b Preston, C.D. "Additions to the bryophyte flora of Cambridgeshire (v.c. 29) in the last 50 years" (PDF). British Bryological Society. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  11. ^ "Vice-county 29". British Bryological Society. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  12. ^ "Michael Proctor". OverDrive. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  13. ^ "Michael Charles Faraday Proctor: Info". ResearchGate. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  14. ^ a b c "Dartmoor National Park, Completed Research: M C F Proctor". Dartmoor National Park. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  15. ^ "Journal of the Botanical Society of the British Isles". Watsonia. 4 (6). April 1961. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  16. ^ "Journal of the Proceedings of the Botanical Society of the British Isles". Watsonia. 8 (4). July 1971. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  17. ^ "Group 5: Biology The Natural Sciences Division". Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  18. ^ Erdei, László (2011). "The past three decades of plant physiology in Hungary" (PDF). Acta Biologica Szegediensis. 55 (1): 48. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  19. ^ "Mr John Bebbington". The Royal Photographic Society. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  20. ^ a b Rich, T.C.G.; Harris, S.A.; Hiscock, S.J. (2009). "Five new Sorbus (Rosaceae) taxa from the Avon Gorge, England" (PDF). Watsonia. 27: 217–228. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  21. ^ IPNI.  M.Proctor.