Iowa Academy of Science





Dr. Louis H. Pammel

President, 1923-1924

The death of Dr. Louis Pammel has removed a notable figure from the ranks of the membership of this Academy of the scientists of this country.

He was born in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, April 19, 1862 and died March 23, 1931, enroute to Iowa from California. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1885 as a Bachelor of Agriculture, and later received the degrees of M.S. (1889) and D.Sci. (1925) from the same institution. He received the Ph.D. degree from Washington University in 1898.

Dr. Pammel was married to Miss Augusta Emmel June 29, 1888, and is survived by his widow, five daughters, and one son.

He served private secretary to the late Dr. W.G. Farlow of Harvard (1885-1886), as assistant to Dr. Wm. Trelease at the Shaw School of Botany (1886-89), in the U.S. Division of Forestry (1889), and as Professor of Botany at Iowa State College and Botanist of Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station from 1889 to the time of his death.

Dr. Pammel was an active member of the principal scientific societies of this country which include plant studies among their interests, and also held membership in similar foreign organizations. He was honored by various elective and appointive positions in these organizations, and among others was elected chairman of Section G of the A.A.A.S. and vice-president of this Association in 1919.

He became a Fellow of this Academy when it had been existence but about two years, and remained in active membership to the time of this death. He had the unique distinction of being twin President of this Academy, first in 1892-93, and again 1923-24, the latter being the twenty-fifth anniversary of his service in the state.

Dr. Pammel's scientific activity covered a wide field of interests, and his numerous papers were the fruit of special studies on bacteria, fungi, the systematic and ecological phase of the flora of Iowa, pollinations, weeds, etc. Many of his papers were published in scientific periodicals in this and other countries, and in our own Proceedings, the number of papers of which he was author or co-author reached 110.

His larger works include the "Manual of Poisonous Plants" (1910), "The Grass of Iowa" (Bull. No. 1, Iowa Geol. Surv., 1901, and Supplement, 1903), the "Weed Flora of Iowa: (Bull. No. 4. ibid., 1914), and the "Honey Plants of Iowa" completed just before his death.

Dr. Pammel also effectively applied his scientific knowledge of outdoor conditions to the service of the state in his efforts to preserve something of natural Iowa both for recreational purposes and for scientific study, and early in history of conservation in Iowa he joined with dr. Thomas H. Macbride in efforts to secure for the state desirable areas for these purposes. His broad experience and wide field of interests gave him a well-balanced scientific understanding of conservation in all its phases - an understanding which cannot come in full force to the narrow specialist.

He was President of the Iowa Park and Forestry Association from 1905 to 1907. He also took a leading part in the McGregor Wild Life School since its organization in 1918, and was active in all movements and efforts which had for their aim the perpetuation of some of Iowa's natural wealth and beauty. His activities in this field culminated when he became a member and the first president of the Iowa State Board of Conservation, serving from 1918-1927, and he was thus able to carry out many of his ideas in a practical way. He was a study opponent of the commercialization of our state parks, and sometimes suffered from the disfavor of those who saw in them merely a means of attracting customers. It is noteworthy that to date he has been the only member of that Board with scientific training and experience though questions are constantly arising in the management of our state parks which call for suck qualifications.

The state park in Madison County was named the "Pammel State Park" in his honor.

In all of his scientific activities, as well as in his efforts for the public welfare, Dr. Pammel was always ready to cooperate. This spirit was nowhere better demonstrated than in his whole-hearted cooperation with the staff of the department of Botany at the State University in scientific and conservation work, even at the time when over-enthusiastic and unwise alumni and friends of the two state institutions stirred up antagonisms and even hatred between them.

One of Dr. Pammel's strong characteristics is worthy of special mention. He was ever ready to help and encourage those among our youth who displayed a desire to take up scientific work, and more than one worthy career has found its inception and lasting inspiration in his enthusiasm, interest, advice and example. One of his methods of thus giving encouragement is illustrated in the large number of papers of which he was co-author with young workers.

As a scientist, Dr. Pammel has left a wealth of valuable information and stimulating inspiration; as a citizen and public official he served his adopted state faithfully and well; as a teacher he will be remembered gratefully by thousands, who had the benefit of his instruction; and as a man and a friend he will be held in cherished remembrance the longest by those who knew him best.

-Memorial of Dr. Pammel (1862-1931) published in the Journal of the Iowa Academy of Science, 31:139-141. All rights reserved.

More about Dr. Pammel:

  • George Washington Carver Legacy Article about Pammel (with photo)
  • Pammel Road on the ISU campus is named for Dr. Pammel

Affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the American Junior Academy of Sciences (AJAS), the National Association of Biology teachers (NABT), the Iowa Space Grant Consortium (ISGC) and the Iowa Mathematics and Science Coalition (IMSC).

The Iowa Academy of Science is a 501c(3) non-profit. Donations to the Academy are tax deductable.

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Iowa Academy of Science
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Last Updated:
Tuesday, October 20th, 2009