Brenan, John Patrick Micklethwait (1917-1985)
Brenan, J.H. (fl. 1978-2005) (co-collector)
Chomba, W. (fl. 1978) (co-collector)
Cruttwell, Norman Edward Garry (1916-1995) (co-collector)
Gillett, Jan Bevington (1911-1995) (co-author, co-collector)
Giulietti, Ana Maria (1945-) (co-collector)
Greenway, Percy James (Peter) (1897-1980) (co-collector)
Harley, Raymond Mervyn (1936-) (co-collector)
Jones, Eustace Wilkinson (1909-1992) (co-collector)
Kanuri Kibui (fl. 1964-1979) (co-collector)
Keay, Ronald William John (1920-1998) (co-collector)
Menezes, Nanusa Luiza de (1934-) (co-collector)
Onochie, Charles Francis Akado (1914-) (co-collector)
Parker, Richard Neville (1884-1958) (cousin)
Richards, Paul Westmacott (1908-1995) (co-collector)
Ross, Robert (Bob) (1912-2005) (co-collector)
Simpson, Norman Douglas (1890-1974) (co-collector)
Vahrmeijer, Johannes (1942-) (co-collector)
Born in Chislehurst, Kent, Brenan attended school in Tonbridge and joined the Botanical Society of the British Isles while a teenager. His interest in natural history was encouraged by his family, including an uncle who had served in the Indian Forestry Service, and he had already published records of Kent plants by the time he was accepted on a scholarship to Brasenose College, Oxford.
Brenan began reading Modern Languages, but switched to Natural Sciences, graduating in 1940 with First Class Honours in Botany. He then joined the Imperial Forestry Institute, Oxford. Alongside his teaching work, he began research on the woody flora of Tanganyika (Tanzania), in collaboration with collector Peter Greenway of the East African Agricultural Research Station. A checklist of plants was published in 1949.
The opportunity for Brenan to make his first collections in Africa came in 1947, when he joined Greenway and Ronald Keay on an expedition to Zambia and Tanzania (then known as Northern Rhodesia and Tanganyika, respectively). He then participated in the Cambridge Botanical Expedition to Nigeria and Cameroon with Professor Paul Richards.
Returning to Oxford, Brenan spent many years working on the collections made on his two expeditions and published his first new genus, Platypterocarpus Dunkley & Brenan (Celastraceae).
Moving to the Kew herbarium in 1948, he joined the Tropical African Section as a senior scientific officer, working on the new Flora of Tropical East Africa under Edgar Milne-Redhead. His first accounts were for the Onagraceae, Trapaceae and Chenopodiaceae, after which he was assigned the daunting task of dealing with the Mimosoid legumes. The latter account appeared in 1959.
In 1950 Brenan married Jean Helen Edwardes and in 1951 was proud to announce the arrival of their first child (of three). In the same year he named a new family from Cameroon, Medusandraceae.
Brenan's next major undertaking was to enumerate the extensive collections made by Leonard Brass in Malawi on the Vernay Nyasaland Expedition. The list was published in the Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden in 1953-1954. The 1950s also saw Brenan make contributions to the Cola genus, and the Commelinaceae, for which family he provided the treatment in the Flora of Tropical West Africa.
After being promoted to principal scientific officer in 1955, he was put in charge of the Tropical African Section at Kew. At this time he turned his attentions to the Caesalpinioidae, publishing the volume on this family for the Flora of Tropical East Africa in 1967. Three years later, his account of the Mimosoidae for Flora Zambesiaca was published.
In 1965 Brenan had accepted the post of Deputy Director and Keeper of the Herbarium and Library at Kew, which shifted the emphasis of his work to administration. He took on numerous other responsibilities in the period, too, as Botanical Secretary of the Linnean Society (1965-1972), President of the Association for Tropical Biology (1970-1971), Fellow of the Institute of Biology (1972), President of the Kew Guild (1972-1973) and as a leading member of the Association pour l'Étude Taxonomique de la Flore d'Afrique Tropicale (AETFAT), among other positions.
In 1976 Brenan succeeded Heslop-Harrison as Director of Kew, the only director to have risen to the position from the position of scientific officer in the herbarium. In the same year he joined the council of the Royal Horticultural Society (receiving its Victoria Medal in 1978) and was appointed visiting Professor at the University of Reading. He was awarded the Willdenow Medal of Honour from the Berlin Botanic gardens in 1979 and in 1981 was elected President of the Botanical Society of the British Isles, with which he had been involved since such a young age.
Retiring from his duties at Kew in 1981, he became an honorary research associate, and made visits to South Africa, Australia and Hawaii in his final years. He did not have time to work on the last collections he made, though, for he died in 1985. A diligent collector throughout his life, his herbarium specimens amounted to more than 15,000 numbers in total. Held in high regard by his colleagues, his ashes were placed in the Mausoleum of At Anne's Church, Kew Green.
D.H. Kent, 1986, "Obituary of John Patrick Micklethwaite Brenan (1917-1985)", Watsonia, 16: 211-214
B. Verdcourt, 1987, "John Patrick Micklethwait Brenan (1917-1985)", Kew Bulletin, 42(2): 286-296.
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