The University of Alabama

Fish Expert, UA Professor Emeritus Herbert Boschung Dies

Herbert Boschung with Edward O. Wilsin

Herbert T. Boschung, a nationally recognized fish expert and University of Alabama professor emeritus of biology, was honored alongside his longtime friend and fellow UA alumnus Edward O. Wilson at a tribute on the UA campus in April 2014. The tribute was hosted by more than 20 Alabama biodiversity and conservation organizations. Boschung died Thursday, Feb. 5 at the age of 89 following a brief illness.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Dr. Herbert T. Boschung, professor emeritus of biology at The University of Alabama, died Thursday, Feb. 5 at Hospice of West Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

He was 89.

Boschung was nationally recognized for his work on freshwater fishes in the Southeast and for identifying many new species of fish. His career of research and teaching spanned more than 50 years. His book, “Fishes of Alabama,” is widely recognized as the most comprehensive source on the characteristics, habitats and descriptions of Alabama fish.

The 725-page classic, encyclopedic work was co-authored with former UA faculty member Dr. Rick Mayden and includes richly detailed illustrations, hand painted by wildlife artist Joseph R. Tomellleri. Boschung was also the senior author of the “Audubon Society’s Field Guide to North American Fishes,” first edition.

Boschung was director of the Alabama Museum of Natural History from 1966-1978 and served as curator of fishes for UA’s Ichthyological Collection from 1966-1987. He was also director of the Alabama Marine Laboratory from 1966-1967.

“Dr. Boschung’s legacy as a scientist, teacher and administrator includes both the generations of students he mentored and the knowledge he gathered and shared through his research,” said UA President Judy Bonner. “The University of Alabama owes him a debt of gratitude for his work in building the marine biology program, curating the ichthyological collection and directing the Alabama Museum of Natural History.”

Boschung was a life-long friend of noted scientist and Pulitzer Prize-winner Dr. Edward O. Wilson, who worked with Boschung when they were both undergraduate biology majors at UA in the late 1940s.

“We were a small band of student naturalists, known ever since as the Chermockians for our mentor Ralph Chermock our professor of biology at The University of Alabama,” said Wilson upon Boschung’s passing. “In research, Herb was known nationally for his work on the freshwater fishes of the region, brilliant for its coverage of one of the richest faunas in America and the beauty of his illustrations.”

In April 2014, Boschung and Wilson were both honored during Edward O. Wilson Week in Tuscaloosa that included a three-day biodiversity seminar and a tribute evening where both scientists were recognized by more than 20 Alabama biodiversity and conservation organizations.

“Bo was always supportive and helpful to those of us who were younger and less experienced,” said former University of Alabama President Roger Sayers, a friend and colleague of Boschung’s. “He was an accomplished classroom teacher and an excellent mentor of graduate students.  His biological interests went beyond ichthyology, as he was deeply concerned about the quality of the environment and the preservation of a diverse flora and fauna. He was a superb ichthyologist and gained the enormous respect of his peers with his vast work describing new species of fish.”

A United States Army Air Force veteran and Purple Heart and Air Medals recipient, Boschung received a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctoral degree from The University of Alabama. He joined The University of Alabama faculty in 1950 and served as an instructor in biology at UA’s Mobile Center and was assistant professor, associate professor and professor of biology, respectively, until his retirement in 1987.

Boschung held key leadership positions with numerous national professional societies including the Alabama Academy of Sciences, the American Society of Icthyologists and Herpetologists, the Southeastern Fishes Council and the advisory committee for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Non-game Program.

He directed numerous research projects for major organizations including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and others.

Boschung is survived by three sons, John (Georganne) of Cookeville, Tenn.; Paul (Milla) of Tuscaloosa; Ralph (Marilyn) of Oakton, Va.; and one daughter, Mary Katherine (Larry) of Tuscaloosa.

Surviving grandchildren are Erik (Paula) Boschung of Birmingham, Sarah Boschung of New York City, Ashley Overstreet of Tuscaloosa, and Dailey Boschung of Birmingham and one great-grandchild, Ashtyn.

Memorials should be made to Hospice of West Alabama. Visitation will be at Heritage Chapel Funeral Home on Saturday, Feb. 7, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. followed by a private burial.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

  • CONTACT: Rebecca Florence, director of college relations, College of Arts and Sciences, 205/348-8538, rebecca.florence@ua.edu