November 14, 2019
Robert Bruce Kaul, age 84, of Lincoln, Nebraska, died on November 14, after a brief illness. Robert was born in Faribault, MN, the eldest of four sons of Clement H. and Jeannette F. Kaul.
The family moved to Owatonna, MN, in 1939. It was in elementary school that Robert's interest in plants and trees first showed itself, and it grew over his lifetime. He graduated with distinction from Owatonna High School in 1953 and was awarded a scholarship to attend the University of Minnesota, where he majored in Botany and graduated with distinction in 1957. He received a Master of Arts degree in 1959, and a Ph.D. in 1964, both from the University of Minnesota and each with an emphasis in Botany.
In 1964, Robert joined the faculty of the University of Nebraska's Botany Department and soon fell in love with the people and plants of Nebraska. His career-long teaching and research interests, though varied, emphasized the plant life of the Great Plains, especially that of Nebraska. In 1976 he married Martha Naugler in Lincoln.
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During his 37-year career with the University of Nebraska, Robert held many academic positions. Among them, he was a Vice Director of the School of Biological Sciences, a professor, a teacher, a chairman in the school of Biological Sciences and a Fellow in the Linnaean Society of London. He chaired numerous committees and held various professional memberships, including the Botanical Society of America, the American Society of Plant Taxonomy, the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the Nebraska Academy of Sciences. His research was supported by a half-dozen grants from the National Science Foundation, as well as from other sources. He did field work in 16 states and 12 countries, from Australia to Malaysia to New Zealand.
Robert enjoyed teaching many students and supervising over a dozen graduate students' theses. His publications emphasized his interest in the morphology of aquatic plants and the reproductive development and biology of trees as well as the flora of the Great Plains. Robert also presented over 40 papers at scientific meetings in the United States and other countries.
Always one to immerse himself in research, after his retirement from the University of Nebraska in 2002, Robert served as a volunteer with the University of Nebraska State Museum and soon after was named Curator of Botany at the Museum, a position that he held until his death. During his tenure at the Museum he was the lead author of The Flora of Nebraska, the state's first comprehensive inventory since 1936 of plants found in the wild. He also added new materials to the 350,000 specimens and catalogued computer data to make them available to scientists around the globe. Robert was named the recipient of the 2019 Nebraska Natural Legacy Award.
Robert had many friends and colleagues during his tenure with the University and the Museum. A botanist in her own right, Martha and Robert shared interests in travel, music, art, international cuisine and most importantly, botany. They traveled from coast to coast and to Asia, Europe, and Central America. No matter where they were, they observed the local plant life with enthusiasm.
Robert was preceded in death by his wife, Martha, and both parents. He is survived by his brothers, Theodore Kaul (Westerville, OH), John Kaul (Woodbury, MN), and James Kaul, (Hudson, WI), their wives, and nine nieces and nephews.