Jack Sharp, internationally acclaimed botanist and author of over two hundred publications, was born in Plain City, Ohio, on July 29, 1904, the son of Prentice Daniel H. Sharp and Maude Herriott Sharp. His mother died when Sharp was only sixteen months old, and he was sent to live with his Quaker grandmother, whom he credited with providing him his first awareness of natural science. In 1922 he entered Ohio Wesleyan University and graduated in 1927 with a B.S. in Botany. His M.S. in Botany came at the University of Oklahoma in 1929 and his Ph.D. from Ohio State University in 1938.
Sharp came to the University of Tennessee in 1929, becoming a full professor in 1946 and serving as department head from 1951 to 1961. From 1958 to 1973 he was Associate Curator of the UT Herbarium. Sharp gained an international reputation for his work in the field of bryology, the study of mosses and liverworts. He collected plants and mosses in every county in Tennessee, every state in the United States, and a number of foreign countries including Mexico, Japan, Taiwan, Russia, Tanzania, and Finland. An undaunted champion of environmental responsibility, Sharp served as the first botanist for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Sharp coauthored Great Smoky Mountain Wildflowers, served on the editorial committee of American Journal of Botany (1948-53), and was associate editor for The Bryologist (1938-54), Castanea (1947-49), and Journal of the Hattori Botanical Laboratory, Japan, beginning in 1961. He held memberships in forty-three professional and learned societies, including memberships in organizations of local and state interest such as the Smoky Mountains Natural History Association and the Tennessee Academy of Sciences.
In 1991 the Tennessee Environmental Education Association presented Sharp the organization’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award. In 1992 he was elected a Fellow in the Linnean Society of London. Sharp died on November 16, 1997.