LAWSON, Abercrombie Anstruther (c. 1871-1927)


LAWSON, Abercrombie Anstruther (c. 1871-1927)
botanist
fourth son of William Lawson, was born in Fife, Scotland, in or about the year 1871. He went to Glasgow University as a medical student, became interested in botany, and left Glasgow to continue his studies at the university of Berkeley, California. He graduated M.Sc. in 1893, and became an instructor in botany. He was a member of a scientific expedition to the Aleutian Islands, and later made further studies at Stanford and Chicago universities in the United States of America, and at Bonn in Germany. In 1907 he was appointed a lecturer in botany at the university of Glasgow. He carried out his official work there with success, and being allowed some time for research, he worked on the Pollen-mother cells of Coboea and of Gladiolus, which with some earlier work on spindle-formation, led to the "Memoirs on Synapsis, Nuclear Osmosis and Chromosome Reduction", which appeared in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1911-12. In 1912 he was appointed the first professor of botany at the university of Sydney, and there he gradually built up a great botanical school in which both teaching and research were vigorously carried on. His early years in Sydney were of necessity largely given up to the organization of the school, and near the close of his life the details of the new botanical building occupied much of his time. But in between he was able to do valuable research work on the Australian flora. An important contribution to the knowledge of the Gymnosperms, "The Life-History of Bowenia a genus of Cycads endemic in Australasia", was published in 1926 in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Lawson had intended to have gathered together his results in a collective work upon the Coniferales, but he died following an operation on 26 March 1927, at the comparatively early age of 55. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1910 and was also awarded its Makdougall-Brisbane prize. Adelaide gave him the honorary degree of D.Sc. in 1926, and he was a selected candidate for the fellowship of the Royal Society, London, at the time of his death. It was not possible under the statutes of the society to confirm this election.
Lawson was of a somewhat reserved nature but he was personally much liked. Much of his research work was detailed and analytic rather than constructive, but it was excellent within its limits. With his school firmly established and in a beautiful new building, much valuable work might have been expected from him had he been given the normal span of life.
F. O. Bower, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 1926-7, p. 374; The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 March 1927; Who's Who, 1926; Nature, vol. CXIX, pp. 509 and 753; Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, ser. A, vol. 117, p. 305; Calendar of the University of Sydney, 1928, p. 857.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.


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