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Amy Frances May Gordon Jacot Guillarmod (1911–1992)

The name of Amy Jacot Guillarmod is intimately associated with the flora of Lesotho. Amy’s working career spanned 54 years in which time she collected over 10,000 specimens which are housed in PREM, PRE, GRA, MASE, K and MO. Her close to 200 publications range from the Flora of Lesotho (Jacot Guillarmod 1971) through numerous research papers on wetlands, bogs, and sponges to popular articles. She is commemorated in the name of the grass Merxmuellera guillarmodiae, as well as the names of several other organisms. She was honoured by the Botanical Research Institute (now part of the National Botanical Institute), which dedicated Volume 50, part 1 (1988) of The Flowering Plants of Africa to her.

Amy obtained her MA in English and History at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, but then established the basis for a career in science by completing a BSc degree in Botany and Zoology at the same university in the 1930s. She spent 17 years in Lesotho between 1940 and 1957; in 1956/7 she returned to academic life as lecturer and Head of the Botany Department of the University College of Basutoland (now National University of Lesotho) in Roma. She moved to Grahamstown in 1958 with her family and started lecturing in the Botany Department of Rhodes University. She still maintained close relations with Lesotho, and was awarded a DSc in Botany from the University of St Andrews for her studies on the Flora of Lesotho in 1967. Amy (with Wessel Marais, a past staff member of the Botanical Research Institute, now resident in France) also described Aponogeton ranunculiflorus, originally from Sehlabathebe National Park, for the first time in Kew Bulletin in 1972 (Jacot Guillarmod & Marais 1972).

In searching for words to describe Amy Jacot Guillarmod, Wells & Brink (1992) found several: indomitable, indefatigable, intrepid and redoubtable, and used the word “active” to describe Amy’s commitment, both scientific and social. Amy apparently enjoyed sharing her birthday, 23 May, with Linnaeus: she gave a party for him every year! In 1979 Amy wrote to a colleague: “…isn’t it pleasant to be a botanist, much nicer than any other profession?”

—Extracted largely from Wells & Brink (1992)

SABONET News 4.2: 156


Southern African Botanical Diversity Network.