Elmer D. Merrill
Elmer Drew Merrill (October 15, 1876 - February 25, 1956) was an American botanist and taxonomist. He spent more than twenty years in the Philippines where he became a recognized authority on the flora of the Asia-Pacific region. Through the course of his career he authored nearly 500 publications, described approximately 3,000 new plant species, and amassed over one million herbarium specimens. In addition to his scientific work he was an accomplished administrator, college dean, university professor and editor of scientific journals. Merrill and his twin brother, Dana T. Merrill, were born and raised in the small village of East Auburn, Maine. They were the youngest of six children by Daniel C. Merrill and Mary (Noyes) Merrill. Merrill showed an early interest in natural history, collecting and identifying plants, birds' eggs, rocks, and minerals. In 1894 he entered the University of Maine with the intention of studying engineering but soon switched to a general science curriculum where he focused on the biology and classification of flowering plants. He was the valedictorian of his graduation class in 1898 and then stayed on for an additional year working as an assistant in the Department of Natural Science. During his time in college Merrill built a sizable herbarium of almost 2,000 specimens which he eventually donated to the New England Botanical Club. In 1899 Merrill accepted a position with the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington D.C. as an assistant to Frank Lamson-Scribner, an authority on the classification of grasses and a pioneer plant pathologist. At the USDA he learned the principles of plant taxonomy and became proficient in the development and management of a herbarium. His training was supplemented by fieldwork in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.