The Naturalist

22 May 2015 Written by  
William A Weber holding Ptilagrostis cf. porteri and Saussurea sp., Yabagan Pass, Altai, 1978. William A Weber holding Ptilagrostis cf. porteri and Saussurea sp., Yabagan Pass, Altai, 1978. Photo by Ivan Krasnoborov, W. A. Weber collection.

I recently had the chance to sit down with Dr. William A. Weber, retired University of Colorado botanist and author of five University Press of Colorado titles. One of those titles, the two-volume Colorado Flora (Eastern Slope and Western Slope) has been continously in print since 1953. Every time I speak with Dr. Weber, I come away humbled by his encyclopedic knowledge of not just the plants he knows so well but also almost every subject area that touches on the natural world—and many that are far afield. In an era of academic specialization, Dr. Weber is a true polymath, a modern Renaissance man.

Last November, the University of Colorado Library honored Dr. Weber as a "CU Legend," and he is only the third faculty member to be recognized in this fashion. Among Dr. Weber's accomplishments include serving sixty years as a professor at CU (he joined the faculty in 1946), publishing numerous scientific articles and several books, and, perhaps most important, building from scratch the world-class University Herbarium at the CU Museum of Natural History.

What is most amazing to me personally, though, is not his past accomplishments; rather, it's that Dr. Weber never rests on his laurels. He is still researching. He is still writing. And he is still finding ways to be involved in collecting botanical specimens from around the state for the herbarium. Just a few years ago he even traveled all the way to Antarctica to collect a rare lichen specimen.

During my life I have met few people with Dr. Weber's unquenchable thirst for knowledge and love for his life's work. When we met, we discussed several manuscript projects he has been involved with, including some original research papers others in the field can expect to see in due course. When the University of Colorado Library celebrated Dr. Weber as a legend, they dubbed him "The Naturalist," a fitting title for a man who continues to devote his energy and intellect to preserving and spreading knowledge of the natural world.

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