William Starling Sullivant was born on January 15, 1803, in Franklinton, Ohio. He attended Ohio University and graduated from Yale College in 1823. That same year, William's father, Lucas Sullivant, died, and William began to operate his father's surveying business. Plant life also fascinated William Sullivant, and he began to study and catalog the various plants growing in Central Ohio. In 1840, he published his findings in A Catalogue of Plants, Native and Naturalized, in the Vicinity of Columbus, Ohio. Sullivant then turned his attention to studying and identifying mosses. He studied and cataloged various mosses from across the United States as well as from Central America, South America, and from various islands in the Pacific Ocean. By the time of his death on April 30, 1873, his fellow scientists viewed Sullivant as the foremost bryologist in the United States. His peers honored Sullivant by electing him to the National Academy of Sciences in 1872. They also named a newly discovered moss, 'sullivantia Ohioensis,' in his honor.