Wilf Schofield

We are deeply saddened by the passing of eminent bryologist and UBC Professor Emeritus of Botany Dr. Wilf Schofield on November 5th, 2008 at Vancouver. Many members of the UBC community and the botanical world, grieve this great loss.  

For a biography of Wilf Schofield, written by Dr. René Belland of the University of Alberta, see the Botanical Electronic Newsletter (BEN)


The director of the UBC Herbarium at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, which houses Dr. Schofield’s extensive bryophyte collections, has written this memorial tribute to him:

Wilf Schofield (1927-2008)

The passing of UBC Professor Emeritus of Botany and World renowned Bryologist Wilf Schofield brings to a close a career of dedication to scholarship, professional service and mentorship that inspired countless students and colleagues, and will  leave a lasting legacy for generations to come.

Wilfred Borden Schofield grew up in Nova Scotia and obtained a B.A. from Acadia University.  Wilf started his professional life as a school teacher, before pursuing a lifelong passion, the study of bryophytes.  His M.A. degree from Stanford University focused on the Canadian and Alaskan species of Hypnum. a genus that he continued to work on throughout his career.  After completing a Ph. D. at Duke University in 1960, Wilf joined the Botany Department at UBC in 1961, where he spent the next 47 years.

Wilf was a gentleman scholar and a lovely man; his presence in the UBC Herbarium and in the halls of the Botany Department is greatly missed.  Walking down the hall, Wilf had the ability to grab your attention with his impish grin – a sure sign that he had something to share: the latest update on a project, an anecdote from a grandchild, an interesting piece of correspondence, a comment on some departmental or world event. Wilf would shop year round for gifts of books for his loved ones, sharing his latest finds from the bookstore (where he sought out treasures in the remaindered sections, sometimes hiding an extra copy of a book in the stacks, so he could tell a friend where to find it. In small and big ways, Wilf showed us that the joys in his life came not just from work, but also from family and friends, literature and music.  He reminded us that we are all people, in addition to being scientists. 

Of course, for those who did not know Wilf personally, his scholarly work on bryophytes and other plants serves as his most easily measured legacy.  Since 1948, Wilf published more than 100 scholarly works, focusing on bryophyte genera from Arnellia to Wijkia, including treatments of more than 20 genera for the Flora of North America. The foundation of his scholarly contributions was his intimate knowledge of bryophytes in the field, reflected in Beaty Museum’s collections.  When he came to UBC, the bryophyte collection held about 3000 specimens; today it numbers over 260,000, contributed through his collections, exchanges, the work of his students and postdocs, and through the reputation he built for UBC’s collection. Fittingly, we will continue to process Wilf’s specimens for several more years.

When you visit the museum, and you walk through the numerous aisles of mosses, now you will know that this amazing collection exists in large part as the legacy of one just man.   Remember too that he left not only the physical samples that he collected and studied, but also his teaching and mentorship left a network of researchers, many who make ongoing use of the collection, and that he inspired us to understand, conserve and appreciate bryophytes. ​