The North American Mycological Association (NAMA) is an organization of amateur mycologists, originally organized as the People-to-People Committee on Fungi in November 1959. Harry S. Knighton (1915-1999) of Portsmouth, Ohio was the founder and first chairman.
The original Committee on Fungi received its impetus from People-to-People Hobbies, Inc., an international friendship program inspired by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. The Committee on Fungi was affiliated with the People-to-People Nature Committee.
Almost immediately, members saw the need for an independent organization devoted to amateur mycology, and the North American Mycological Association was launched on February 20, 1967. With missionary zeal and great energy, Harry Knighton produced a newsletter, The Mycophile from 1960, organized the first foray in Scioto County, Ohio in 1961, and expanded the organization’s membership nationally and internationally through a wide network of contacts. Dr. Alexander H. Smith of the University of Michigan and Dr. Clark Rogerson of the New York Botanical Garden both were early supporters and advisors to NAMA. John Cage, C. Wayne Ellett, R. Philip Hanes, Phyllis Kempton, Elsie Knighton, Lois Long, Margaret McKenny, Guy Nearing, Ellen Trueblood, and Esther Whited were all early important members.
By the 1970s, as interest in mushrooms increased, many local mycological associations had formed throughout the U.S., taking inspiration from and affiliating with NAMA. The organization launched a journal, McIlvainea, in 1972 and formed many of the committees and programs by which it is known today. The annual North American mushroom foray was occasionally augmented by a European excursion. By 1976, the NAMA Toxicology Committee had organized a mushroom poison case registry to analyze and distribute information about mushroom poisonings. NAMA continues to be the premier national organization in the U.S. devoted to amateur mycology, with programs that encompass taxonomy, mycophagy, photography, mushroom cultivation, toxicology, nature study, education, publication, cooking, mushroom crafts, and travel.
Contributed by David W. Rose. To read more of David's musing about NAMA history, read his first installment of articles starting on page 6 of the March/April 2008 issue of The Mycophile.