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Campus Remembers ‘First Lady of Limu’ Isabella Abbott

Posted on | November 12, 2010 | Comments Off

Isabella Abbot at 90 years young, in her laboratory.

Isabella Kauakea Aiona Abbott, a Mānoa ethnobotany professor emerita who was known worldwide as a gifted algae taxonomist, passed away on Oct. 28 at the age of 91. Services are being planned for Dec. 7 at Bishop Museum.

“Dr. Abbott was a gifted and decorated scientist, a dedicated and inspiring professor, an active community volunteer and a passionate and eloquent spokeswoman for the study and protection of marine life,” says President M.R.C. Greenwood.

“Known around the world as a brilliant scientist, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Jane Lubchenco said Dr. Abbott was ‘a font of knowledge and a beacon of inspiration for generations of marine biologists around the world.’”

Read on for more of Abbott’s lifetime achievements.

Abbott received her undergraduate degree in botany at 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 more than 170 research papers, books and technical reports, and gave generously of her time in service to numerous organizations in Hawaiʻi.

More than 200 algae owe their discovery and scientific names to Abbott and several species have been named after her, along with an entire genus—Abbottella, which means “little Abbott.”

“Professor Abbott was considered the world’s foremost expert on central-Pacific algae, and she was also a gracious, beloved member of our Mānoa ʻohana,” says 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.”

For more on Abbott read the news release, statement by President Greenwood or the 2010 Mālamalama article on her.

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