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Ernest Emmett

Posted by: BMS_Administrator

1934 - 2022

IMG_8704 Ernest Emmett.JPGIt is with great sadness that we announce the death on 7/5/2022 of Ernest Emmett a long time active member of the British Mycological Society.

A research chemist and active naturalist Ernest became  a member of the BMS in the 1970s, when he was intrigued by the fungi in the woodland garden along the Wye Valley in Glos. that he and Valerie had moved to.  There weren’t many identification guides at the time, and so he found out about the BMS and they went on some of the day forays with a local group across the Severn. The forayers had the same book in their baskets that Ern was trying to use – Lange and Hora! Later when time allowed, he went to the BMS main forays.

Ernest got very serious about fungi, and he bought his first Zeiss microscope, together with a copy of the book by Kuhner and Romagnesi.

He was the Foray Secretary in the 1990s and together with other members of the Foray committee they organised the main forays and annual taxonomy meeting at RBG Kew for several years. He also ran workshops and encouraged others to do likewise to help members with techniques for identification of fungi they collected. He also set up the West Weald Fungus Group, they chose four different types of habitat to visit and record and they often ran their own workshops. He was keen on techniques in using a microscope to help with identification and persuaded the BMS Council to buy two microscopes with video projection equipment for use in workshops and on forays. 

He became a Fellow of the Linnean Society in January 1989, nominated by the curator of Haslemere Educational Museum, Arthur Jewell author of the little book on Lichens in the Observer series.  Ernest used to go into the museum regularly and curated their insect collections. (The museum has a long history if involvement with the BMS. A.A, Pearson lived locally, Carleton Rea and Lister’s daughter amongst other notables used to foray around the Haslemere area.)

By this time, he’d become very interested in Mycenas, and he decided to specialise in the group.

In between teaching in schools, he used to go into RBG Kew once a week and, with David Pegler, Chief Mycologist’s encouragement, he “curated” all their Mycena collections, learning a good deal in the process. At that time the Mycology section was still entering their accessions in a book. Ernest, with some help from Dr. Jerry Cooper of the OU and latterly IMI and landcare research  New Zealand, devised an Access database – for accessions and fungal records – Mycorec and Herbtrack.

The BMS awarded him the Benefactors medal in 2003 for his services to mycology at a meeting in the Linnean Society HQ. He’d not long recovered from surgery for cancer.

A move to the Cairngorms National Park introduced new foraying territory, many visits to Scandinavia attending the biannual Nordic Congresses  Ernest became friends with many of the mycologists there, especially Seppo Huhtinen at the botanical museum and herbarium at Turku University. Ernest travelled a good deal in Finland, collecting in Lapland, and he often helped on the University workshop courses for students. 

Latterly he was extracting the DNA from material he collected, and he sent the DNA to Ellen Larsson in Goteborg University, Sweden to do the sequencing. He was the principal author for the Mycena section in Funga Nordica, devising the identification keys, making all the sections and the microscope drawings.

He felt sad that there was one particular species he had not sorted out – Mycena algeriensis. Specimens with this name are being collected  in Scandinavia. Ernest collected some at the Arctic Circle and Swedish and Finnish mycologists have made other collections too.

The original collections were made in the 1900s by Maire in the Atlas Mountains in Algeria and Morocco. Maire originally gave it the name M. cystidiophora, but Kuhner visited Maire in Algeria and renamed it M. algeriensis in honour of Maire.

Ernests final trip was to Montpelier University in 2015 to see Maire’s collections, but sadly they had been ruined with treatment against insect attack in the 1930s using arsenious oxide and mercuric chloride – the specimens all looked as though they’d been toasted! he was able to look at Maire’s notes and original drawings. The Scandinavian collections look very similar if not identical.

He has given his microscopes, freezing microtome and DNA extraction equipment to the James Hutton Research Institute near to Aberdeen for use on research projects. This was typical of a man who worked tirelessly to help encourage and educate others develop their fungal taxonomic skills.


(Extracted from a longer paper on Ernest's life by Valerie Emmett.  Available from the BMS; please email admin@britmycolsoc.info)