Research flowered under fine botanist

University of Otago staff and friends (from left) Dr Peter Johnson, Maryanne Miller, Rosemary...
University of Otago staff and friends (from left) Dr Peter Johnson, Maryanne Miller, Rosemary Hudson, Dr Gretchen Brownstein, Dr Janice Lord, Dr David Orlovich, Prof Kath Dickinson, Dame Caroline Burns, Islay Little, Sir Alan Mark and Prof Richard Barker celebrate Associate Prof Ann Wylie’s100th birthday at the University of Otago Staff Club. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
A distinguished University of Otago botany professor celebrated her 100th birthday on the campus where she carved her career yesterday.

Associate Prof Ann Wylie’s birthday was celebrated with a cake-cutting in the Billiard Room of the university’s staff club, where she was surrounded by friends and colleagues.

Prof Wylie began teaching in the University of Otago botany department while still completing her studies because department head at the time, the Rev John Holloway, fell ill and retired.

She graduated with a master of science in botany in 1945.

She completed her PhD at the University of London, but in the 1950s a new post at the University of Otago’s botany department brought Prof Wylie home. She taught in the botany department until her retirement in 1987.

Two prizes awarded for 300- and 400-level genetics at the university are named in her honour.

Her research focused on genetics and cytology.

She offered the university’s first courses in those subjects and co-authored the first Chromosome Atlas of Flowering Plants in 1948.

Her pioneering and inspiring work was recalled by many at the birthday party.

Emeritus Prof Sir Alan Mark told the story of how she and three other female students took over in a time of need.

"Together, you helped to sustain the botany department," Sir Alan said.

Emeritus research associate at Manaaki Whenua Dr Peter Johnson was her student and recalled etherising fruit flies in her class.

"I am grateful for your research, but also your hands-on teaching."

Botany professor Kath Dickinson grew emotional in her address.

"Women who come to the botany department owe you thanks.

"Thank you for passing on your legacy to us," she said.

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