Margaret Sibella Brown

Margaret Sibella Brown[note 1] (2 March 1866 – 16 November 1961)[1][note 2] was a Canadian bryologist specializing in mosses and liverworts native to Nova Scotia.[2][3] She concentrated her collecting work on Cape Breton, but also collected specimens from Trinidad, Puerto Rico, Spain, France, and Jamaica.[4] The standard author abbreviation M.S.Br. is used to indicate this person as the author when citing a botanical name.[5]

Margaret Sibella Brown
Margaret Sybella Brown with flowers and books.jpg
Born2 March 1866
Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia
Died16 November 1961(1961-11-16) (aged 95)
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Known forBryology
AwardsMaster of Arts (honoris causa)

Family and early lifeEdit

Margaret Sibella Brown's parents were Richard Henry Brown (1837–1920) and Barbara Davison (1842–1898).[6][7] Margaret Sibella had a twin sister (Elizabeth Purves), and three other siblings (Annie, Richard Charles, and Lillian Seward).[7][8] The Brown family lived in Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia.[7]

Brown had a paternal aunt who was also named Margaret Sibella Brown (1836–1854).[9] Sibella Annie Barrington was a distant cousin.[10] The name Sibella or Sibyl in the Brown family is traced back to Isabella French (born about 1731 or 1732), wife of John Barrington.[11]


Brown attended the Anglican School for Girls in Halifax. She earned a B.A. at Kings' College.[4] She attended the Anglo-German Institute finishing school in Stuttgart, Germany.[8] After returning to Nova Scotia in 1885, she attended the Victoria School of Art and Design.[8]

Scientific careerEdit

There is little contemporaneous record of Brown's scientific career. There is one known paper she published in 1937, in which she categorized a collection of moss samples gathered in Syria by William Bacon Evans.[12]

She is known to have worked with Elizabeth Gertrude Britton, Nathaniel Lord Britton, and Joseph Edward Little, as co-collectors of specimens.[13] One expedition with Elizabeth and Nathaniel Britton, to Puerto Rico, was undertaken in January 1922, with a planned duration of ten weeks.[14] The results of that expedition were presented in April of that year.[15]

Society and board membershipsEdit

Brown was a member of the Moss Exchange Club (later known as the British Bryological Society)[16] and the Sullivant Moss Society (later known as the American Bryological and Lichenological Society).[8] She was president of the Halifax Floral Society. She was a member of the Nova Scotian Institute of Science; when she died at the age of 95, she was the oldest living member.[8]

Brown served on the board of the Victoria School of Art and Design (later known as NSCAD University or Nova Scotia College of Art and Design), and was a member of their education committee.[8] During World War I, she was honorary secretary of the Halifax Branch of the Canadian Red Cross Society.[8]


Brown was awarded an honorary M.A. from Acadia University on May 16, 1950, at the age of 84.[4][8][17] She had been offered an honorary Ph.D., which she declined and accepted the M.A. instead.[8] In 1934, she was awarded an honorary diploma from the Victoria School of Art and Design.[8] Brown was inducted into the Nova Scotia Scientific Hall of Fame in 2010.[8]


Yale University Herbarium catalog card. Text reads: Lejeunea patens Lindb. / On rocks. New Brunswick / Long Island, Kennebecaisis / (Collected by) M. S. Brown July '23

The E.C. Smith Herbarium at Acadia University contains her collection of 1779 mosses, 858 hepatics, and 53 lichens.[8] Other of her specimens are in the collections of the British Museum, New York Botanical Garden, Dalhousie University, the New Brunswick Museum, the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, the Devonian Botanical Garden at the University of Alberta, the Yale University Herbarium, and the Harvard University Herbaria.[8][18][19]

Additional readingEdit

  • Biography of Sibella's grandfather, Richard Brown. Vernon, Charles William (1903). Cape Breton, Canada, at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century. Toronto: Nation Publishing Co. pp. 16 – via Internet Archive.


  1. ^ Brown's middle name is variously spelled Sibella, Sybella, or Sebella, in different sources. The use of Sibella is adopted in this article, as that is the spelling most commonly used in sources talking about her scientific career.
  2. ^ There is some question about her date of death. Most sources give it as 15 November. Her official death certificate, however, says 16. The official figure is used here.


  1. ^ "Province of Nova Scotia – Registration of Death". Province of Nova Scotia. O2-006233. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
  2. ^ "Brown, Margaret Sibella (1866–1961) on JSTOR". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ "Margaret Sibella Brown »". 2013-04-04. Retrieved 2018-10-13.
  4. ^ a b c "The Honorary Degrees". Acadia Bulletin. XXXVI, No 4: 12, 14. June 1950. Archived from the original on 2018-10-13. Retrieved 2018-10-13.
  5. ^ IPNI.  M.S.Br.
  6. ^ "Sibella Margaret Barrington". Retrieved 2018-10-16.
  7. ^ a b c "Brown family fonds – Beaton Institute Digital Archives". Retrieved 2018-10-16.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Inductees to the NS Scientific Hall of Fame: Margaret Sibella Brown, A Nova Scotian Bryologist. Proceedings of the Nova Scotian Institute of Science. 45, part 2. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Nova Scotian Institute of Science. 2010. pp. 152–154.
  9. ^ "A Family Orchard: Leaves from the Barrington Tree. Barrington (revised to 6 April 2016)". Section heading, "Brown, Richard / Barrington, Sibella Margaret". Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  10. ^ "A Family Orchard: Leaves from the Barrington Tree". Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  11. ^ "A Family Orchard: Leaves from the Barrington Tree. Barrington (revised to 6 April 2016)". Section heading, "Barrington, John / French, Isabella (Sibella or Sibyl)". Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  12. ^ Brown, Margaret S. (October 1937). "Mosses from Syria". The Bryologist. 40 (5): 84–85. doi:10.2307/3239666. JSTOR 3239666.
  13. ^ "Brown, Margaret Sibella (1866-1961) on JSTOR". Retrieved 2020-04-27.
  14. ^ "Notes, News and Comment". Journal of The New York Botanical Garden. XXIII: 7. January 1922 – via Google Books.
  15. ^ "BOtanical Investigations in Puerto Rico". Journal of The New York Botanical Garden. XXIII: 49–59. April 1922 – via Google Books.
  16. ^ Lawley, Mark. "Members of the Moss Exchange Club (1896–1923) and British Bryological Society (1923–1945)".
  17. ^ "Margaret Sybella Brown Receiving Honorary Degree – Beaton Institute Digital Archives". Retrieved 2018-10-13.
  18. ^ "Yale University Herbarium, Peabody Museum of Natural History". Frullania collaborative research network. Retrieved 2020-04-25.
  19. ^ "Harvard University Herbaria & Libraries: Index of Botanical Specimens". Retrieved 2020-04-27.