Obituary | Robert Bruce Kaul

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Obituary | Robert Bruce Kaul

Robert Kaul (center) was presented the Anderson Award from the Friends of the State Museum in 2015. He is pictured with (left) Betty Anderson, the award’s namesake, and Priscilla Grew, emeritus director of the museum.
Craig Chandler | University Communication
Robert Kaul (center) was presented the Anderson Award from the Friends of the State Museum in 2015. He is pictured with (left) Betty Anderson, the award’s namesake, and Priscilla Grew, emeritus director of the museum.

Robert Bruce Kaul, 84, of Lincoln, retired professor of botany, died Nov. 14 following a brief illness.

Kaul served 38 years at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, joining the Department of Botany in 1964 and retiring in 2002. His career-long teaching and research interests were varied, but emphasized the plant life of the Great Plains, especially that of Nebraska.

Kaul was born Jan. 28, 1935 in Fairbault, Minnesota, as the eldest Clement and Jeannette Kaul’s four sons. The family moved to Owatonna, Minnesota, in 1939.

It was in his elementary school years that Kaul’s interest in plants and trees took root. He graduated with distinction from Owatonna High School in 1953 and was awarded a scholarship to attend the University of Minnesota.

Kaul majored in botany and graduated with distinction in 1957. He received a Master of Arts in 1959 and a doctorate in 1964, both from the University of Minnesota and with an emphasis in botany.

In 1976, he married Martha Naugler in Lincoln.

Kaul held many academic positions with the university, from vice director and chairman of the School of Biological Sciences, to fellow in the Linnaean Society of London. He chaired numerous committees and held many professional memberships, including the Botanical Society of America, American Society of Plant Taxonomy, American Institute of Biological Sciences, and Nebraska Academy of Sciences.

His research was supported by half a dozen grants from the National Science Foundation and other sources. He did field work in 16 states and 12 countries, from Australia to Malaysia to New Zealand.

Kaul supervised more than dozen graduate student theses. His publications emphasized an interest in the morphology of aquatic plants and the reproductive development and biology of trees as well as the flora of the Great Plains. Kaul presented more than 40 papers at scientific meetings in the United States and other countries.

After retirement in 2002, Kaul served as a volunteer at the University of Nebraska State Museum and was named curator of botany, a position he held until his death.

During his tenure with the museum, Kaul was lead author of the “Flora of Nebraska,” the state’s first comprehensive inventory since 1936 of plants in the wild. He also expanded the botany collection to more than 350,000 specimens.

In 2019, Kaul received the Nebraska Natural Legacy Award for his dedicated service to the filed of botany in the Cornhusker State and beyond.

Kaul was preceded in death by his wife and parents. He is survived by his brothers, Theodore Kaul of Westerville, Ohio, John Kaul of Woodburry, Minnesota, and James Kaul of Hudson, Wisconsin; their wives; and nine nieces and nephews.

The family has requested memorials to the Journey House at Tabitha, 4720 Randolph St., in Lincoln.

Remembrances can be left online.