William Burger

Curator Emeritus

Negaunee Integrative Research Center
Science Focus

      Bill Burger joined the Field Museum as a Curator of Botany in 1965. Bill’s major work during his career was the Flora Costaricensis, which provided rigorous taxonomic revisions of Costa Rica’s key plant families, yielding numerous publications on the country’s floral diversity. Over the years Bill described 104 plant species, primarily in the Lauraceae and Moraceae. In addition to his Costa Rica work, Bill published a number of influential, sometimes controversial, papers on the evolution of flowering plants and the evolution of flower structures. Bill served as Chair of the Department of Botany from 1978-1985, and was appointed Curator Emeritus upon his retirement at the end of 1999. In addition to his scientific contributions Bill was very active in education, exhibits, tours, and development programs. He is also an avid nature photographer.

      After his “retirement” Bill carried on in many roles for several years, including scientific advisor on the Chocolate traveling exhibit, Scientific Editor of Fieldiana, and Coordinator of the Seminar Series. He also wrote two books aimed at a general audience, Perfect Planet, Clever Species: How Unique Are We? (2002) and Flowers: How They Changed the World (2006), and he currently has another manuscript under review by a publisher.

      For more than forty years Bill and wife Melinda have lived in Hyde Park, where they raised two daughters. Bill continues to jump into nearby Lake Michigan in summertime, and photograph ice formations in winter.

      Research Sketch

      Central America