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George Macdonald Hocking 1908-2001

George Macdonald Hocking passed away at the age of 92 in Auburn, Alabama on February 13, 2001. An emeritus professor at the College of Pharmacy, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, he was best known for his encyclopedic A Dictionary of Natural Products published in 1997. This was the second edition of a work originally published in 1955 entitled Dictionary of Terms in Pharmacognosy and Other Divisions of Economic Botany. The second edition was vastly enlarged over the first, running almost 1,000 pages and 18,000 entries. An inveterate collector and reader of scientific books related to pharmacognosy, Prof. Hocking amassed a large collection which was perhaps surpassed in its field only by the Lloyd Library and Harvard Botanical Library. He donated thousands of the floristic books in his collection to the University of Texas library in 1993.

Serving as editor, in 1976 Hocking revived the Quarterly Journal of Crude Drug Research, a small journal purchased by the Dutch publisher Swets & Zeitlinger from the estate of its founder, crude drug importer E.F. Steinmetz. He served as editor-in-chief until 1991, by which time the journal had been renamed the International Journal of Pharmacognosy. He also abstracted numerous articles for Chemical Abstracts, Excerpta Botanica, and Excerpta Medica in the days when such tasks were performed by volunteers.

Born in Newquay, Cornwall, England, on March 21, 1908, he came to the United States in 1924 to attend Reed College. He earned a B.S. in pharmacy in 1931 from the University of Washington, then both masters (1932) and doctoral (1942) degrees from the University of Florida. His thesis topic concerned the pharmacognosy of Liatris root. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1935. He worked during World War II for S.B. Penick, a large importer of crude botanical drugs based in New York.

Hocking taught pharmacognosy at George Washington University, Ohio Northern University, the University of Buffalo, and the University of New Mexico, finally settling in 1951 at Auburn Polytechnic Institute (Auburn University), where he taught until his retirement in 1976. He continued to work actively in retirement, editing the journal and working on the second edition of his dictionary until its publication.

He held a number of committee assignments, including chairing the subcommittee on pharmacognosy for the National Formulary (1947–1960), and served as an adviser to the Pakistani and Brazilian governments on medicinal plants.

His wife Betty passed away in 1994. He is survived by one daughter, Joan Anderson, of Long Valley, NJ.

—John A. Beutler, Ph.D.