Liriodendron tulipifera flower

The University of North Carolina
A Department of the North Carolina Botanical Garden



Collectors of the UNC Herbarium
Information compiled by Carol Ann McCormick,
Curator of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Herbarium

Robert Almer Harper
(21 January 1862 – 12 May 1946)

The University of North Carolina Herbarium has cataloged about 90 fungi specimens collected by Robert Almer Harper.  As our cataloging continues, it is likely we will find more. 

Fungi belonging to the Clavariaceae, Erysiphaceae, and Pucciniaceae are well represented in Harper’s specimens at NCU.  We have not found any vascular plants, bryophytes, algae or lichens collected by Harper in our collections. Most of Harper’s specimens at NCU are from his days at Lake Forest College in Lake County, Illinois.

“In the fall of 1889, he became Master in Science at Lake Forest Academy where he served during two academic years. The high quality of his scholarship and teaching ability combined with an impressive personality as shown in those two years, led Lake Forest University to shift him to Lake Forest College as Professor of Botany in the fall of 1891.  He had received his A.M. from Oberlin in the spring.  For a time the title was Professor of Botany and Geology but since few courses in geology were called for, geology was dropped from the title. The coming of the great botanist John M. Coulter to Lake Forest as President in the spring of 1893, offered a favorable opportunity for Harper to take leave of absence for two years for graduate study in Germany.”1  

1862 – Born at LeClaire, Iowa, Jan. 21
1863 – Parents moved to Port Byron, Ill. [Illinois].  Elementary education at Pory Byron
1882 – Entered Oberlin College
1886 – A. B. Oberlin College
1886-88 – Taught Greek and Latin in Gates College, Neligh, Nebraska
1888 (Fall) – Graduate Student, Johns Hopkins University
1889 (Spring) – Taught science and mathematics at State Normal School, California, Pa. [Pennsylvania]
1889-91 – Master in Sciences, Lake Forest Academy
1891 – A. M. Oberlin College
1891-96 – Professor of Botany and Geology, Lake Forest College
1894-96 – On leave for study in Europe
1894-95 – At Bonn, with Strasburger
1895 (Spring) – At Munster with Brefeld
1895-96 – At Bonn
1896-98 – Professor of Biology, Lake Forest College
1898 – Professor and Head of Botany, University of Wisconsin
1899 – Married Alice Jean McQueen, who died 1909
1911 (February to August) – Visiting Professor, University of California
1911-1930 – Torrey Professor and Head of Department of Botany, Columbia University
1918 – Married Helen Sherman
1923-24 – Chairman of Division of Biology and Agriculture, National Research Council
1938 – Retired to his farm near Bedford, Virginia
1946 – Died May 12

Harper’s specimen labels are sometimes difficult to interpret.  He commonly abbreviated Lake Forest as simply “LF,” and he had a creative way of recording collection dates – the date on the bottom label is 4 October, 1891.  Curators at NCU frequently rely on recognizing Harper’s handwriting to ascribe specimens to him. 


“Harper defied the dictum that a man is appreciated for the weight of his publications (on the “hay” scales); he published only when he felt that he had something of importance to contribute. Yet he was automatically recognized as among great botanists of his time.”1 

Harper, R. A. 1896.  Beitrag zur Kenntniss de Kerntheilung und Sporenbildung im Ascus.  Berichte Deutsche Botanische Gesellschaft (Generalversammlungsheft). 13: 67.
--.  1896.  Die Entwickelung des Peritheciums bei Sphaerotheca Castagnei.  Berichte Deutsche Botanische Gesellschaft. 12: 475-48a, pl. 39.
--.  1896.  Ueber das Verhalten der Kerne bei der Fruchtentwickelung einiger Ascomyceten.  Jahrbucher fur Wissenschaftliche Botanik. 29: 655-685, pl. 11.
--.  1897.  Kerntheilung und freie Zellbildung im Ascus.  Jahrbucher fur Wissenschaftliche Botanik. 30:  249-284, pl. 11, 12.
--.  1899.  Cell-division in Sporangia and Asci.  Annals of Botany. 2: 467-525, pl. 24-26.
--.  1899.  Nuclear phenomena in certain stages in the development of the smuts.  Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences. 12:  475-498.
--.  1900.  Cell and nuclear division in Fuligo varians.  Botanical Gazette.  30:  217-251, pl. 14.
--.  1900.  Sexual reproduction in Pyronema confluens and the morphology of the ascocarp.  Annals of Botany. 14:  321-400, Pl. 19-21.
--.  1902.  Binucleate cells in certain Hymenomycetes.  Botanical Gazette. 22:  1-25, pl. 124.
Harper, R. A. and R. J. Holden.  1903. Nuclear divisions and nuclear fusion in Coleosporium sonchi-arvensis Lev.  Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences. 14: 63-82.
Harper, R. A.  1904.  Hamilton Greenwood Timberlake.   Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences. 14: 690-693.
--.  1905.  Sexual reproduction and the organization of the nucleus in certain mildews.  Carnegie Institute of Washington Publications. 37: 1-104, pl. 1-7.
--.  1907.  Sex-determining factors in Plants.  Science II.  25: 379-382.
--.  1908.  Organization of certain coenobic plants.  Botanical Society of America Publication.s 36: 281-334, 4 pl.
--.  1910.  Nuclear phenomena of sexual reproduction in fungi.  American Naturalist. 44:  533-546.
--.  1912.  The structure and development of the colony in Gonium.  Transactions of the American Microscopical Society. 31:  6583, pl. 5.
--.  1912.  Some current conceptions of the germ plasm.  Science II.  35:  909-923.
--.  1914.  Cleavage in Didymium melanospermum (Pers.) Macbr.  American Journal of Botany. 1:  127-144, pl. 11, 12.
--.  1914.  Physical factors in cleavage of coenocytes.  Science II.  39:  295.
Harper, R. A. and B. O. Dodge.  1914.  The formation of the capillitium in certain Myxomycetes.  Annals of Botany. 28:  1-18, pl. 1, 2.
Harper, R. A.  1914.  Starchy and sugary foods.  Journal of the New York Botanical Garden. 15:  33-37.
--.  1916.  On the nature of types in Pediastrum.  Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden. 6:  91-104, f. 1,2.
--.  1918.  Organization reproduction and inheritance in Pedastrum.  Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. 57:  345439.
--.  1918.  The evolution of cell types and contact and pressure responses in Pediastrum.  Memoirs of the Torrey Botanical Club. 17:  210-240.
--.  1918.  Binary fission and surface tension in the development of the colony in Volvox.  Memoirs of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. 1:  154-166.
--.  1919.  The structure of protoplasm.  American Journal of Botany. 6:  273-300.
--.  1920.  Inheritance of sugar and starch characters in corn.  Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club.  47:  137-186, pl. 3-5.
--.  1920.  The stimulation of research after the War [World War I].  Science II.  1324:  473-478.
--.  1923.  The species concept from the point of view of a morphologist.  American Journal of Botany.  10:  229-233.
--.  1924.  Cytology.  Journal of the American Society of Agonomy.  16:  595-607.
--.  1926.  Morphogenesis in Dictyostelium.   Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club.  53:  229-268. 
Harper, R. A., N. L. Britton and A. A. Howe.  1928.  Professor Herbert M. Richards.  Journal of the New York Botanical Garden.  29:  137-138.
Harper, R. A.  1929.  Significance of taxonomic units and their natural basis.  General discussion, Proceedings of the International Congress of Plant Science 1926.  2:  1588-1589.
--.  1929.  Morphogenesis in Polysphondylium.  Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club.  56:  227-258.
--.  1929.  The nature and functions of plastids, especially elaioplasts.  Proceedings of the International Congress of Plant Science 1926.  1:  311-316.
--.  1932.  Organization and light relations in Polysphondylium.  Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club.  59:  49-84.
--.  1933.  Plant science in the service of art.  Proceedings, Dedication Morris Arboretum, 26-41.

“Harper called himself a botanist; he included all plant study under the name. His published papers are not particularly numerous, but practically all of them covered problems fundamental to plant life. Though he was interested in practical as well as theoretical faces of the subject, he never called himself anything but a botanist. He was a collector with experience and skill -- he knew where to go to get what he wanted. He took his classes to the fields, to the dunes, to the hills; he was no stranger in the swamp or on the waterside -- will he had just one name for it, botany.  1

Other herbaria which curate Harper’s s mycological specimens include PH (Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University), BRU (Brown University), CUP (Cornell University), F (Field Museum), FH (Farlow Herbarium of Harvard University), ISC (Iowa State University), LSUM (Louisiana State University), MU (Miami University), MSC (Michigan State University), NY (New York Botanical Garden), OSC (Oregon State University), PUR (Purdue University), CHRB (Rutgers University), BPI (United States National Fungus Collections), ARIZ (University of Arizona), UC (University of California, Berkeley), FLAS (University of Florida), GAM (University of Georgia), ILL (University of Illinois), MICH (University of Michigan), MIN (University of Minnesota), NEB (University of Nebraska), WIS (lichens and fungi; University of Wisconsin, Madison), RMS (University of Wyoming), and WSP (Washington State University).


1.  Thom, Charles. 1948.  Biographical Memoir of Robert Almer Harper.  National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Biographical Memoirs Volume xxv – ninth memoir. 




University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Herbarium
CB# 3280, Coker Hall
South Road
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3280
phone: (919) 962-6931

Last Updated: 10 November 2017