KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Dr. Aaron Jack Sharp, world-renowned botany professor and co-author of the popular guidebook “Great Smoky Mountains Wildflowers,” died Sunday. He was 94.
Services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Unitarian Church on Kingston Pike.
Sharp, a member of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville faculty since 1929, continued until recently to work in his office in the Hesler Biology Building. He officially retired in 1974.
A founder of the UT Arboretum Society, Sharp refused royalties on the wildflower guide to help keep the handbook affordable. It was one of UT Press’s best-selling titles.
In 1991 Sharp was presented the Order of the Rising Sun by the Japanese government for contributing to the education of Japanese researchers and improving academic exchanges between Japan and the United States.
A year later Sharp traveled to London where he was inducted as a fellow in the Linnean Society, founded in 1788 to recognize and promote the study of biology.
Sharp helped start the annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage to the Smokies in the early 1950s. The event began as a project of the Gatlinburg Garden Club, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce.
UT President Joe Johnson frequently used Sharp as an example of a faculty member who successfully combined teaching, research and public service to build a distinguished record in all three areas.
“The University of Tennessee has lost a great teacher and an internationally honored researcher,” Johnson said Monday. “We shall miss him.”
Sharp’s specialty was bryology, the study of mosses and liverworts. The publication in 1994 of the two-volume “Moss Flora of Mexico,” which Sharp co-authored, represented the culmination of 50 years of study and research.
The author of more than 200 publications, Sharp was a consultant for Time-Life Books, the British Broadcasting Corp., Encyclopedia Britannica and National Geographic. He collected plants and mosses from every county in Tennessee, every state in the nation, and at least a dozen countries including Mexico, Japan, Taiwan, Russia, Tanzania and Finland.
Survivors include Sharp’s widow, Evelyn. They had five children: Rosa Elizabeth, Maude Katherine, Mary Martha, Fred Prentice and Jennie Lou. Evelyn Sharp taught in the math department at UT for nearly 20 years.
Memorials may be made to the Aaron Jack Sharp Endowment Fund, Tyson Alumni House, 1609 Melrose Ave., Knoxville.