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21 November 2021

Gillian Cox(1938-1984) mycologist

Cox was born as Geoffrey Frank Laundon, and earned a BSc in Botany at the University of Sheffield in 1969. This led to being a mycologist at the Commonwealth Mycological Institute at Kew in London. 

Laundon specialized on rust fungi (then known as Urediniomycetes; now as Pucciniales). Rusts are considered among the most harmful pathogens to agriculture, horticulture and forestry. Rust fungi are major concerns and limiting factors for successful cultivation of agricultural and forest crops. White pine blister rust, wheat stem rust, soybean rust, and coffee rust are examples of notoriously damaging threats to crops. Laundon soon became well-known in the field for thorough, careful work on the class, first publishing new taxa in 1963.

In 1965 the Commonwealth Mycological Institute published Laundon’s book, The Generic Names of Uredinales. This was reviewed in the Transactions of the British Mycological Society

“Nomenclature at best is a tedious business for many of us, but until a better system is invented the best we can do is to have a set of names whose basis is firmly established. Mr Laundon has done this service for the generic names of rusts nobly.”

Among Laundon’s most important contributions was a new system of spore terminology published in 1967 - this was controversial at the time but was generally accepted later. 

In 1963 Laundon married Margaret Cox and they had three children. In 1965 they emigrated to New Zealand, where Laundon became mycologist at the Plant Health & Diagnostic Station at Levin, and continued to research the taxonomy and nomenclature of rusts. Laundon was an active member of the International Association for Plant Taxonomy and was on the Special Committee for Fungi and Lichens for a number of years. 

myrtle rust infections in NZ

Laundon was the first to realise there were two species involved when the poplar rusts were first found in New Zealand in 1972, a claim not verified until samples of the spores were examined with an electron microscope.

By 1977 Laundon had transitioned as Gillian. She was supported in this by her wife and children. She was initially involved in Hedesthia, the then major New Zealand trans group, but it was mainly oriented to transvestites. Gillian, using her wife’s surname, in 1976 set up Transformation, which was more focused on transsexual issues. Gillian and Margaret produced several information leaflets and fielded questions from transsexuals, interested public and professionals alike, seeking to aid and educate as many people and groups as they could. 

She placed an announcement in the New and Notes section of the Taxon journal: 

“Mr G. F. Laundon of the Plant Health & Diagnostic Station, Levin, New Zealand has changed sex as from the 22nd Jan. 1977 and is now known as Miss Gillian Laundon. She continues her work in plant pathology, mycology and nomenclature.” 

Actually she had become Gillian Fiona Laundon, which enabled her to take advantage of the practice of Onomastic Occlusion, that is to continue to publish professionally as “G F Laundon”. 

However at work some staff strongly opposed her using female toilets. She was restricted to only one toilet and threatened with disciplinary action if she used another. However she was supported by other colleagues including her controlling officer who wrote to the State Services Commission (SSC) on her behalf in order to suggest that guidelines be set up so that “transexuals be treated consistently in the public service”. She was supported by Leone Neil, also a Hedesthia member and public servant. By 1978 Laundon had won her case and was free to use whatever facility she pleased. 

However, the SSC did not implement any guidelines, and discrimination was still rife in the public service. In 1979 Laundon wrote in support of a trans woman in another department who was to be subjected to a vote by her colleagues over whether she should be able to use the female toilets.

Over her career Laundon collected at least 211 specimens and identified 539 that are in formal herbaria or culture collections. The species Phoma laundoniae is named in her honour.

Professional publications by G F Laundon:

  • “D.B.O. Savile, ,Collection and Care of Botanical Specimens Publication 1113 (1962) Canada Department of Agriculture, Research Branch,Ottawa xii + 124, 13 text-figures. Price: $2.00”. Transactions of the British Mycological Society, 46, 1, 1963.
  • “Uredopeltis (Uredinales)”. Transactions of the British Mycological Society, 46,3, 1963.
  • “Angusia (Uredinales)”. Transactions of the British Mycological Society, 47,3, 1964.
  • The Generic Names of Uredinales, Mycological Papers, No. 99. Commonwealth Mycological Institute, Kew, 1965.
  • “Terminology in the rust fungi”. Transactions of the British Mycological Society, 50, 2, 1967.
  • Review of “Malgolm Wilson, D.M. Henderson, British Rust Fungi (1966) Cambridge University Press”. Transactions of the British Mycological Society, 50, 2,1967.
  • “The taxonomy of the imperfect rusts”. Transactions of the British Mycological Society, 50, 3, 1967.
  • “Rust Names Attributed to Léveillé”. Taxon, 16, 3, 1967.
  • “A cold method for preparing dried reference cultures” Transactions of the British Mycological Society, 51, 3-4, 1968.
  • “The Status of Some of Persoon's Uredo Names”. Taxon, 17,2, 1968
  • “(319) Proposal to Delete the Generic Name Nigredo Persoon ex Roussel (1806) as a nomen rejiciendum of Uromyces (Link) Unger (1833) (Fungi)”. Taxon, 19, 6, 1970.
  • “The Lectotype for Uredo”. Taxon, 19,6, 1970.
  • “Records of fungal plant diseases in New Zealand”. New Zealand Journal of Botany, 8, 1, 1970.
  • “Additions to the rust fungi of New Zealand — 5”. New Zealand Journal of Botany, 8, 3, 1970.
  • “A new reinforcement for sealed fluid microslide mounts”. Transactions of the British Mycological Society, 56, 2, 1971.
  • “Records of Fungal Plant Diseases in New Zealand — 2”.New Zealand Journal of Botany, 9, 4, 1971.
  • “Delimitation of aecial from uredinial states”. Transactions of the British Mycological Society, 58, 2, 1972.
  • “Records and taxonomic notes on plant disease fungi in New Zealand”. Transactions of the British Mycological Society, 60, 2, 1973.
  • “Uromyces fallens and U. trifolii-repentis in New Zealand”. Transactions of the British Mycological Society, 61, 1, 1973.
  • “Proposals in Regard to the Emendment of Author Citations”. Taxon, 23, 5-6, 1974.
  • “Botryosphaeria obtusa, B. Stevensii, and Otthia spiraeae in New Zealand”. Transactions of the British Mycological Society, 61, 2, 1976.
  • “A new name for a New Zealand Phragmidium”. Transactions of the British Mycological Society, 67, 1, 1976.
  • “Peridermium (Fungi)”. Taxon, 25, 1, 1976.
  • “New host records of plant disease fungi in New Zealand”. New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research, 21, 4, 1978.
  • “New plant disease record in New Zealand Uromycladium simplexon Acacia pycnantha”. New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research, 21, 4, 1978.
  • Phoma rumicicola nov., a cause of leaf spots on Rumex obtusifolius”. New Zealand Journal of Botany, 18, 4, 1980.

Other publications:

  • D M Henderson. Review of “G F Laundon. The Generic Names of Uredinales Mycological Papers, No. 99”. Transactions of the British Mycological Society, 48, 4, 1965.
  • Gillian Cox, ‘Friends,’ S-E-L-F,12, November 1976:
  • Gillian Cox, ‘Information service for transexuals,’ The Public Service Journal, 64, 6 July 1977:
  • Gillian Cox, ‘TransFormation Report 1977,’ Trans-Scribe, 1, 17, February 1978:
  • Gllian Cox, , ‘Prejudice against transexuals,’ The Public Service Journal, 66, 11 December 1979:
  • Gillian Cox. ”The Bible Says” and “Telling Your Secret”. Gender Review, 10, February 1981. Online.
  • J R Laundon (brother). “Geoffrey Frank Laundon”. Taxon, 34,1,1985.
  • Geoffrey C Ainsworth edited by John Webster & David Moore. "Laundon (Geoffrey Frank (from 22 Jan 1977 Gillian Fiona)". Brief Biographies of British Mycologists.  British Mycological Society, 1996. Online
  • Will Owen Hansen, “Every Bloody Right To Be Here” Trans Resistance in Aotearoa New Zealand, 1967-1989.MA Thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, 2020: 3, 42, 44, 54, 72-3, 95,
  • Isabel Douglas. “LGBT History Month: Gillian Cox”. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, February 16, 2021. Online.


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