With the death of Paul Claude Silva, Research Botanist and Curator of Algae, Emeritus, at the Herbarium, University of California at Berkeley (UC), we have lost one of our most brilliant and constant stars. He was known for his generosity, kindness, and willingness to assist the international phycological community – as nomenclatural consultant, as editor, and as wise colleague and friend. He has touched the minds and hearts of so many; he will be dearly missed.
Silva’s contribution to his field was monumental. His masterwork, the Index Nominum Algarum, comprises ca. 200,000 scientific names of algae, both extant and fossil, in all taxonomic groups and in all ranks. The Bibliographia Phycologica Universalis is the accompanying bibliography. These data, available electronically at http://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/INA.html, facilitated his contribution to the Index Nominum Genericorum (Plantarum), Authors of Plant Names, and Names in Current Use for Extant Plant Genera. The hardcopy card files are housed together with an extensive and valuable phycological library in the Center for Phycological Documentation at UC, which Silva generously endowed in 2004.
Paul C. Silva was born on 31 October 1922 in San Diego, California. He studied botany at the University of Southern California, where he was introduced to seaweeds in his second year during a field trip to the Palos Verde Peninsula, a nearly pristine coastline, in 1941. His undergraduate education was interrupted by World War II. After attending USNR Midshipmen’s School at Columbia University, he served as the Combat Information Center Officer on the destroyer escort, USS Darby, seeing combat in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. After the war, he returned to USC, graduating summa cum laude in 1946.
Silva’s master’s thesis, with G. M. Smith at Stanford University (1947–1948), was a survey of the marine algae of the California coast from Monterey southward to Point Conception, once a nearly inaccessible and unknown area that opened to study due to the construction of new roads after the war. Thus began his enduring interest in floristics and biogeography. Faced with an undescribed Codium from southern California and adjacent Baja California, he tried to determine where the new species fit into this genus of siphonous green algae. This led to graduate studies at UC Berkeley with George F. Papenfuss (1948–1951), where he focused on morphotaxonomic studies of South African Codium species. He continued to study Codium for the next 60 years as the world’s expert on the genus. During his graduate studies, Silva participated in expeditions to the coastal islands of southern California and Baja California, Mexico (1948–1951), bringing back comprehensive intertidal collections that remain important benchmarks for this fascinating part of the world.
After a one-year postdoctoral appointment with Papenfuss, studying the algae of sewage oxidation ponds, Silva became a professor at the University of Illinois from 1952 to 1960. There, he was a Guggenheim Memorial Fellow (1958–1959) and received the Darbaker Prize of the Botanical Society of America (1959). He returned to UC Berkeley, first as a visiting associate professor (1960–1961), then as a Research Botanist in the Herbarium (1961–2004). Springs and summers included short courses at UC Santa Barbara, Duke University, and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico. Silva collected at the Galápagos Archipelago on two expeditions (1964 and 1972) and at the islands of the southern Gulf of California (1982). He traveled extensively along the coast of California north of San Francisco (1968, 1972, and 1974), again making superb baseline collections for this lesser known, rich region. His specimens are a significant part of his legacy at UC.
Silva was committed to excellence in phycological publications, founding the International Phycological Society and serving as editor of Phycologia (1961–1968), member of the editorial committee of Botanica Marina (1983–1997), associate editor and member of the editorial board of Journal of Phycology (1983–1985), and associate editor of the European Journal of Phycology (1997–1998).
Silva’s first published paper [Generic names of algae proposed for conservation, Hydrobiologia 1950 2: 252–280] initiated a long, distinguished career in algal nomenclature. He served as chairman or secretary of the Committee for Algae (International Association of Plant Taxonomy) since 1954 and was a member of the Editorial Committee and coeditor of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (1981–2004).
Silva retired in 2004 but remained active until his mobility was severely limited by osteoarthritis. His career was astonishing. He published more than 100 scientific papers, two phycological catalogs (one based on a single genus, Scenedesmus, and two based on geographic regions, the Philippines and the Indian Ocean), and many contributions to encyclopedias, book reviews, obituaries, and reports from professional meetings. He was a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences since 1972 and received many international awards for his contributions to phycology. More than 800 species of algae bear his name, and three genera and many species have been named in his honor. Although his position as Research Botanist did not include the formal advising of students, countless phycologists consider him our mentor, teacher, and inspiration – he taught us how to see, to think, and to write.
Silva enjoyed a life full of activity, ideas, and issues. He had a deep appreciation of history and was a dedicated bibliophile. He loved to travel and was a keen observer of people and places. His love of music began in high school, when he became an accomplished pianist; he ardently supported and attended performances of the San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Ballet. He was an impassioned advocate of Democratic politics and GLBTQ causes. He collected modern Japanese prints and marked the seasons in his office with flowers from his garden – from camellias through white wisteria and inflorescences from his coast silk-tassel bush. He was an avid weather-watcher and a big fan of local baseball and football teams.
Despite huge setbacks, including the loss of his lifelong partner, Lawrence Heckard, to AIDS and his house, Westview, to fire, Paul carried on his exemplary career with courage and distinction. He was among our greatest and will be remembered by so many for so much. What an honor to have met him, corresponded with him, worked with him!