Max was born in 1939 in Cairo, Egypt, as the only son of a South African-born officer serving in the Royal Air Force and an Australian mother. His parents dragged him around the world, from Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania to Northwood, Middlesex and Leuchars, Scotland and then back to South Africa where Max received most of his education, except for a year in a small coastal village near Sydney, Australia. He did a double major in Zoology and Botany and was awarded his PhD from the University of Cape Town in 1965. His thesis was a contribution to the International Indian Ocean Expedition and dealt with water masses and associated phytoplankton communities in the SW Indian Ocean, including the Agulhas Current. His thesis was rather large - as he put it, “he didn't have time to write a shorter one!”


2000 Yasumoto Lifetime Achievement Award by 9th Int Conf Harmful Algal Blooms (Hobart); 1995 Paleontological Society Golden Trilobite Award; 1997 elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada; three teaching awards while at University of British Columbia; etymology of Alexandrium taylori, Amphisolenia taylori, Blepharocysta taylori, Gonyaulax taylori, Strombidiniopsis taylori .

Professional Career

"Max" FJR Taylor joined the faculty of the University of British Columbia at the end of 1964 at the age of 24, having been offered a job even before his PhD thesis was formally approved. He was promoted to full Professor at the age of 35. Max joined the UBC Institute of Oceanography, then headed by George Pickard. The Institute was remarkable for its strength in physics, both oceanographic and atmospheric, and eventually became a Department of Oceanography and later still, was combined with Geology and Geophysics.

Key contributions

At UBC Max continued work for the Indian Ocean Expedition, carrying out analyses for the Smithsonian Indian Ocean Center in Washington, DC, using material collected by the R.V. "Anton Bruun”, from a much wider area encompassing the Bay of Bengal, Andaman Sea, Arabian Sea and the whole western Indian Ocean. This material formed the basis for his beautifully illustrated monumental 1976 Indian Ocean Dinoflagellate Atlas. This work also included many of the earliest scanning micrographs of dinoflagellates. Max's students primarily explored the phytoplankton ecology of the coastal waters of British Columbia while he continued to develop his specialty: the ecology of red tides, brown tides and other Harmful Algal Blooms. Max has been doing research in this field longer than anyone else, having published his first paper on a mass mortality of marine life in False Bay, near Cape Town, in Nature in 1962. Shortly after arriving in British Columbia in 1965 he investigated with Anand Prakash, a case of human death due to paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). It was the first such case anywhere in which the causative dinoflagellate was caught still at the scene. Dinoflagellates always held Max's closest attention, and he edited and wrote nearly a third of The Biology of Dinoflagellates for Blackwell, before teaming up with palynologists to combine the classifications of living and fossil dinoflagellates, an effort that won them the Paleontological Society's Golden Trilobite Award in 1995.

In 1979 he recognized that the PSP causative organism in BC did not fit into Gonyaulax and he coined the new genus name Protogonyaulax, which he subsequently gracefully withdrew in favor of the resurrection of the older name Alexandrium. Along his diverse career path, Max worked on cryptomonad endosymbionts in Mesodinium, the feeding mechanism in Protoperidinium, the motility of the dinoflagellate transverse flagellum, the causative dinoflagellate of ciguatera, and bloom prediction of the fish-killing Heterosigma carterae (=akashiwo). Max always had a strong on-going interest in cell evolution. In 1974 he formalized the Serial Endosymbiosis Theory that in eukaryotic cells the mitochondria and chloroplasts had a symbiotic origin from bacteria. These were old independent proposals revitalised and combined by Lynn Margulis in the 1970s, but highly unpopular at the time even though they made complete sense to Max, who published further papers as evidence accumulated. It was largely this body of work which earned him a Fellowship in the Royal Society of Canada in 1997. Max still mourns the lack of interest that greeted what he believes was his most significant discovery which resulted from a sabbatical at Oxford University in 1986-87. Although the codons (the triplet bases that determine which amino acids will be incorporated in proteins) were claimed by nobel prize winner Francis Crick to be randomly assigned but unchanging, Max and David Coates found that it is the most highly ordered data set they ever encountered.

Max always enjoyed traveling and sabbaticals in Villefranche-sur-Mer, Phuket, Barbados and Oxford, plus teaching summer courses at Friday Harbor (University of Washington) and Bamfield, B.C., and HAB training courses in the Philippines, Bruneri, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, were happy breaks from university routine. Max is an intensely social person and an extraordinary raconteur with an anecdotal memory for details. These skills put him centre stage at numerous international conferences, whether as the cofounder in 1975 of the International Society for Evolutionary Protistology, the Founding President of ISSHA in 1998 or conferences on Fossil Dinoflagellates, and he produced numerous insightful state-of-the-art conference overviews. Following his retirement in 2005 after 40 years with the Departments of Earth and Ocean Sciences, and Botany (a joint appointment) he found a new outlet for his instructional skills, giving lectures on cruise ships several times a year, giving a whole new meaning to going on cruises.


Alan Cembella, Greg Gaines, Paul Falkowski, Juan Saldarriaga.

10 Key publications

Fensome, R.A., Taylor, F.J.R., Norris, G., Sarjeant, W.A.S., Wharton, D.I. & Williams, G.L. 1993. A classification of living and fossil dinoflagellates. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist., Micropal. Spec. Publ. 7, 351 pp.

Taylor, F.J.R. (ed.), 1987. The Biology of Dinoflagellates. Bot. Monogr. 21.Blackwell & Univ. Calif. Press, 786 pp.

Taylor, F.J.R., Sarjeant, W.A.S., Fensome, F.A. & Williams, G.L. 1987. Standardization of nomenclature in flagellate groups treated by both the Botanical and Zoological Codes of Nomenclature. Syst. Zool. 36, 79-85.

Cembella, A.D., Sullivan, J.J., Boyer, G.G., Taylor, F.J.R. & Andersen, R.J. 1987. Variation in paralytic shellfish toxin within the Protogonyaulax tamarensis/catenellaspecies complex; red tide dinoflagellates. Biochem. System. Ecol. 15, 171- 186.

Taylor, F.J.R., 1980. On dinoflagellate evolution. BioSystems, 13(1), 1- 44.

Taylor, F.J.R. 1985. The taxonomy and relationships of red tide flagellates. In Anderson, D.M., White, A.W. & Baden, D.G. (eds), Toxic Dinoflagellates, Elsevier/North Holland, pp. 11- 26.

Taylor, F.J.R., 1979. The toxigenic gonyaulocoid dinoflagellates. In Taylor, D.L. & Seliger, H.H. (eds.), Toxic Dinoflagellate Blooms. Proc. Second Int. Conf. on Toxic Dinoflagellate Blooms, pp. 47- 56.

Taylor, F.J.R. 1976. Dinoflagellates from the International Indian Ocean Expedition. Bibliotheca Botanica, 132, 222pp. + 46 pls. E. Schweizerbart'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Stuttgart.

Taylor, F.J.R., Blackbourn, D.J. & Blackbourn, J., 1969. Ultrastructure of the chloroplasts and associated structures within the marine ciliate Mesodinium rubrum(Lohmann). Nature, 224, 819- 21.

Taylor, F.J.R. 1968. Parasitism of the toxin producing dinoflagellate Gonyaulax catenella by the endoparasitic dinoflagellate Amoebophrya ceratiiJ. Fish. Res. Bd. Canada, 25(10), 2241- 2245.

Grindley, J.R. & Taylor, F.J.R. 1962. Red water and mass mortality of fish near Cape Town. Nature, 195, 1324.

Based partly on: SCOR Newsletter 15, May 18, 2005; EOS Alumni newsletter 8 (2005); portrait by G. Hallegraeff.