William S. Benninghoff

William S. Benninghoff, 74, professor emeritus of botany and director of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens from 1977 to 1986, died Jan. 8 at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital. Internment will be at Arlington National Cemetery later.

In 1957 Benninghoff joined the botany faculty, and during his 31-year academic career taught plant ecology, general ecology (with Prof. Francis C. Evans), Quaternary paleoecology, and historical plant geography and served as adviser to doctoral and postdoctoral scholars.

He earned three degrees at Harvard: S.B. magna cum laude (1940), M.S. (1942) and Ph.D. (1948).

During World War II he served as deck officer on the U. S.S. Tatum in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Pacific, twice receiving the Bronze Star, and retired in 1960 as Lt. Commander, U.S.N.R. (Intelligence).

At the U.S. Geological Survey in Washington, D.C., from 1948 to 1957, Benninghoff was promoted from botanist in charge of field parties in Alaska, Iceland and Greenland to chief of the Alaska Terrain and Permafrost Section.

He was recognized for professional accomplishments with the Department of Interior Meritorious Service Award, 1954; the Antarctic Service Medal of the United States, 1973; Hiroshima (Japan) University Commemorative Medal, 1974; honorary life member as founder of the International Association for Aerobiology, 1982; and first convenor of the several Gordon Research Conferences on Aerobiology, 1980. He was a member of the Explorers Club of New York and the Cosmos Club of Washington, D.C.

His research interests included the study of airborne biological particles; electrostatics; polar biology, science policy and monitoring, especially in Antarctica; plant community dynamics; Quaternary climate and vegetation changes using pollen analysis; history of science; and those areas related to his teaching.

He is survived by his wife, Anne; son, Jonathan; daughter, Valerie Cathey; and mother, Edith E. Shiffer Benninghoff.

Memorial gifts may be directed to The Nature Conservancy, Michigan Chapter (Benninghoff Tract), 2840 East Grand River, Suite 5, East Lansing, MI 48823; The Cranbrook Institute of Science Library, Box 801, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48303-0801; the Harvard College Fund, Class of 1940, University Place, 124 Mt. Auburn St., Cambridge, MA 02138-5762; or Abiding Presence Lutheran Church, 1550 W. Walton Blvd., Rochester Hills, MI 48309.


Leave a comment

Commenting is closed for this article. Please read our comment guidelines for more information.