The Medicinal Plant Specialist Group is deeply saddened by the death of Edward F. "Ted" Anderson on March 29, 2001. Ted, as many, many people throughout the world knew him, was a consummate plant scientist. He was passionately involved in teaching, cactus and succulent systematic research, ethnobotany, conservation and (most of all) fieldwork throughout the world. He was devoted husband to his wife Adele and his family. There are very few people and scientists like him, which makes his loss all the more significant.
Ted’s work over the past 45 years included a recently finished masterwork, The Cactus Family, which he was extremely pleased to have completed after thousands of hours of work. His book Peyote: The Divine Cactus was first published in 1980 and a revised second edition was released in 1996 and dedicated to his wife Adele. He co-authored the Threatened Cacti of Mexico and in 1993 he published a beautiful book called Plants and People of the Golden Triangle on the ethnobotany of the tribal people of Northern Thailand.
Ted’s original fascination with cacti and tropical plants was sparked by a fellowship to study cacti at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont, California. He earned his B.A. in biology from Pomona College and his M.A. and Ph.D. in botany from Claremont Graduate School. He taught botany at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington for 30 years and during that time he received two Fulbright-Hays lectureships to teach in other countries. He spent sabbatical leaves in Latin America and Southeast Asia, where he studied cacti and documented the ethnobotanical use of plants.
Ted published numerous scientific papers on ethnobotany, conservation and taxonomy. He was honored by multiple cactus and succulent societies, and was elected as member to the Linnean Society of London. He served for six years as president of the International Organization for Succulent Plant Study. He was also serving as the chairman of the International Cactaceae and Systematics Group.
Ted also served on the Scientific Strategy Team (SST) of Shaman Pharmaceuticals where he contributed his expertise on plant medicines that he had studied around the world. He was also highly focused on the ethics and benefit-sharing process that was developed and implemented by Shaman Pharmaceuticals and the Healing Forest Conservancy.
I personally was amazed by how much energy and passion Ted displayed for fieldwork, science and international travel. Each time I spoke to him he described his recent fieldwork and travels in Chile, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Thailand, the Southwest U.S. and many trips to Europe to visit major herbaria, friends and other scholars. In fact, we have all read many different tributes to Ted as person, a scientist, mentor, husband, father and plant lover. His many passions and facets, like a sparkling gem, radiated into so many interwoven worlds.
Ted Anderson will be missed but never forgotten for who he was and for his contributions to the world of plants and plant sciences. Thank you, Ted, for following your passions with such gusto. Thank you for teaching so many students. We will think of you as divine cacti: sacred and powerful in your love for the natural world.
— Steven R. King, Ph.D.
This tribute was first published in the Newsletter of the Medicinal Plant Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Vol. 7 August 1, 2001. pp 2, and reprinted with permission.