Dr. Frank Shipley Collins 1848-1920

Often labeled as “leading amateurs” early phycologists such as Frank Shipley Collins were anything but amateur regarding their knowledge of this discipline. Frank Shipley Collins was born in 1848 and despite having a sickly childhood eventually became quite the collector and endured all manner of weathers in order to fulfill his passion for algae. He came in to the field not exactly late, but somewhat delayed at the age of 33, during which time he was building his ‘professional’ career as an accountant at the Malden Rubber Shoe Company.

His collections at CONN, although far from the largest holdings at the New York Botanical Garden and Harvard’s Farlow Herbarium, are testament to his thorough approach to collecting. There are numerous visitations to the same locality and collections of the same species with details on abundance and distribution. His collection at CONN is complemented by collections of Isaac Holden of Bridgeport Connecticut, a colleague of Collins whose collections at CONN are largely from Long Island Sound and in particular Bridgeport, CT. Collins had contacts all over the world and had a voracious appetite for exchanges and a large production of scientific papers, many of which appeared in the Journal of the New England Botanical Club, Rhodora. for which he was an associate editor from the very first issue in 1899 along with Merritt Lyndon Fernald and Hollis Webster.

Sets of plant, algal or fungal ‘Exsiccatae’ [literally translated as ‘dried’] were all the rage during Collins’ lifetime and it was these bound, distributed volumes of specimens such as his Phycotheca Boreali-Americana (1895-1919) with collaborators Holden and W.A. Setchell at UC Berkeley that are tributes to the dedication and energy of early phycologists. Many ‘separates’ were left over from these 50 volumes and a number of these specimens that form the “Collins” collection at CONN. One family, Collinsiellaceae; three genera, Collinsia J. Agardh, Collinsiella Setchell & Gardner, and Collinsiellopsis Chihara; and several epithets commemorate Collins’ accomplishments in this field, in addition to the Northeast Algal Society’s Frank Shipley Collins Award for meritorious service to the society and to phycology.

Phaeosaccion collinsii Farlow, still an accepted name for a sublittoral marine alga which generally occurs epiphytic on the leaves of the seagrass Zostera marina L. High resolution digital images, similar to the above are now being added to the phycology database.

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Dr. Don Les