Campus mourns 'First Lady of Limu' Isabella Abbott

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: Nov 3, 2010

Isabella Abbott
Isabella Abbott
Isabella Kauakea Aiona Abbott, a University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa ethnobotany professor emerita who was known worldwide as a gifted algae taxonomist, passed away on October 28 at the age of 91. Memorial services are pending.
According to the October 2010 issue of UH’s Mālamalama magazine, more than 200 algae owe their discovery and scientific names to Professor Abbott. Several species have been named after her, along with an entire genus—Abbottella, which means “little Abbott.” See the October 21, 2010 Mālamalama cover story, “Pioneering professor is first lady of limu,” at
“Professor Abbott was considered the world’s foremost expert on central-Pacific algae, and she was also a gracious, beloved member of our Mānoa ‘ohana,” said Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw. “Her dedication to the field brought much honor to campus, and her gifted talents and love for research resulted in numerous recognitions, including being named a Living Treasure by the Honpa Hongwanji.”
Dr. Abbott received her undergraduate degree in Botany at UH Mānoa, MS in Botany from the University of Michigan, and PhD in algal taxonomy from the University of California at Berkeley in 1950—becoming the first person of Hawaiian ancestry to attain a PhD. For more than five decades, she was the preeminent marine botanist of the Pacific region. The dedicated scholar and prolific writer published over 170 research papers, books and technical reports, and gave generously of her time in service to numerous organizations in Hawai‘i.
She is survived by family members who include daughter Annie Abbott Foerster of Kāne‘ohe and granddaughter Catherine Foerster of Danville, California.
To honor Dr. Abbott, the UH Mānoa Department of Botany has established a fund at UH Foundation to support graduate research in Hawaiian ethnobotany and marine botany. Checks may be made out to UH Foundation, with “Abbott Award for Graduate Research” in the memo section, and mailed to UH Foundation, P.O. Box 11270, Honolulu, HI 96828-0270. To make a donation online, please see the website at