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Doctor William Tai, who died on 18 May 2006, played an indispensable role in the formation and early years of the Flora of China project. He joined the staff of the Missouri Botanical Garden in 1988, remaining as the project’s co-director and a member of the Joint Editorial Committee until 1995. His moving to St. Louis followed ten continuous years of efforts to build bridges between Chinese and American botanists.

Tai had a career that ideally suited him for building these bridges. Like many famous Chinese people, he was born in Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province, moving with his parents to Taiwan in the 1940s, gaining his B.S. degree from the National Chung-Hsing University in Taichung, and then coming
to the United States, where he completed his M.S. degree at Utah State University in 1964 and his Ph.D. in plant cytogenetics at the University
of Utah in 1967.

Tai studied with Peter Raven at Stanford University as a postdoctoral fellow from 1967 to 1969. It was natural, then, for Raven to think of Tai, who served as a member of the faculty of the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at Michigan State University from 1969 to 1988, when possibilities for scholarly communication between Chinese and American botanists began to open up a decade later. Reluctant at first, Tai joined the American delegation that visited China in 1978 and was the principal organizer for the return visit by Chinese botanists to America in the summer of 1979. His early and continuous efforts made a great contribution to the development of relationships between Chinese and American botanists, which have grown rapidly in depth and scope over the past 30 years.

During the last days of their 1979 visit, the Chinese delegation joined their American colleagues in Berkeley, California, for a discussion of what kinds of joint activities might be selected for future collaboration. Field trips in China were attractive to the Americans, and a joint expedition to Shennongjia, Hubei Province, took place the following summer. What turned out to be the most fruitful outcome of the meeting, however, resulted from the suggestion made by two members of the Chinese delegation, Wu Zhengyi (吴征镒 Wu Cheng-yih) and Yu Dejun (俞德浚 Yu Te-tsun), that an English second edition of the Flora Reipublicae Popularis Sinicae, based on cooperative scholarship and full access to the world’s botanical literature and herbarium specimens, be organized. After prolonged negotiation, an agreement to proceed with the Flora of China was reached in 1987, and Tai came to work at the Missouri Botanical Garden the following year. William Tai is survived by his wife of 43 years, Nancy Tai, and three children, Dean, Cindy, and Carolyn. In consideration of his contributions, the Joint Editorial Committee unanimously decided to dedicate Volume 13 of the Flora of China to the memory of Dr. William Tai.


DR. William Tai (戴威廉)
(9 March 1934 - 18 May 2006)
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