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History & Curators


The Fritsch Collection is now 100 years old and Celebrating its Centenary in 2012.

In 1912 Professor F.E. Fritsch began filing published algal illustrations to assist his interest in the morphology and range of algal species, especially the desmids. In the days before copiers he used to ask authors for two reprints so that he could cut up one copy for his filing system of individual species sheets. If these were not forthcoming he either traced or cut out the figures anyway (and some in the FBA's library reprints attest to this practice!). His notes were handwritten or typed and glued on to the edges of the foolscap sheet, as overlays. Many of the original figures and descriptions are also included and each author's figure was cross- referenced by date to the Author Index. Most references are in the FBA Library.

This began as Fritsch's own aide memoire, his 'Scrap Book', and was also of considerable use to his students and visitors. On his death in 1954 it came to John Lund at the FBA who continued to update it with the help of a series of assistants. The present Curator is dr elizabeth Y. Haworth. Originally the figures were line drawings, some of the earliest ones being published using etched copper plates. Subsequently photographs and electron micrographs were used in publications and colour plates are now common. Microfiche copies of pre-1992 sheets were produced by Inter Documentation Company, now part of BRILL.

The Collection contains floristic information from a wide range of papers published worldwide, from the end of the eighteenth century to the present day. For ease of use the sheets were, and still are, organized alphabetically by genus and species within the major groups, e.g. Diatoms, Red Algae, Blue greens (Cyanobacteria), etc. Today the original diagnoses are always included. Part of the author index has become searchable on this website Half the desmid section has now been digitized as the pilot for the searchable online version and we are currently seeking the funding to enable its completion. Two volunteers currently assist the Curator.

The information, which now exceeds 100,000 foolscap sheets and several million illustrations, together with its own reprint collection, is currently accessed by email, phone, letter or personal visit.