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BEN # 170

Adolf Ceska aceska at CUE.BC.CA
Wed Jul 23 03:34:55 EST 1997


                                                   
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BBBBB    EEEEE    NN N N             BOTANICAL
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No. 170                              July 23, 1997

aceska at freenet.victoria.bc.ca        Victoria, B.C.
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 Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2
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                   KATHERINE ESAU (1898-1997)

Dr.  Katherine  Esau died at the age of 99 on June 4 at her home
in Santa Barbara, California. An obituary can be  found  in  the
June 18, 1997 issue of the New York Times. Dr. Ray Evert will be
writing  a  biographical note for an upcoming issue of the Plant
Science Bulletin. She will be remembered by  countless  students
as  the author of Plant Anatomy (1953, 1965) and Anatomy of Seed
Plants (1960,  1977),  which  are  among  the  most  influential
textbooks  in structural botany the second half of this century.
[In fact, I used the latter when I  taught  plant  anatomy  this
last spring!]

Katherine  Esau  was  born  on  April  3,  1898,  in the City of
Yekaterinoslav in the Ukraine (Dnepropetrovsk in the USSR) -- an
agricultural city created by Catherine the Great  and  populated
largely  by  German  Mennonite  settlers  (including  Dr. Esau's
great-grandfather Aron Esau). She began college studies  at  the
Golitsin Women's Agricultural College in Moscow, but the Revolu-
tion  interrupted  her  schooling  at the end of her first year.
World War I slowed the Revolution but at its end, her father was
removed from his post by the "revolutionary" government and  the
family  fled  to  Berlin  a  day  before her father was named an
"enemy of the country."

Dr.  Esau's  college   education   continued   at   the   Berlin
Landwirtschaftliche  Hochschule (Agricultural College of Berlin)
and at Hohenheim, near Stuttgart, culminating  with  some  addi-
tional  studies  in  plant  breeding  with the famous geneticist
Erwin Baur. She went to a model seed breeding station for  wheat
in  Northern  Germany  and  from there to America in mid-October
1922, settling in Reedley, CA. Dr. Esau was hired by the Spreck-
els Sugar Company at Spreckels near Salinas,  CA  to  develop  a
sugarbeet  resistant  to  the curly-top disease. The chairman of
the Botany Division at University of California-Davis, Dr. W. W.
Robbins, and the chairman of the Truck Crops Division, Dr. H. A.
Jones, visited Spreckels to learn about  curly-top  disease  re-
search.  Upon  inquiring,  she  was  accepted  to  continue  her
graduate work at Davis using sugarbeet  stocks  from  Spreckels.
Professor T.H. Goodspeed, the Nicotiana cytologist in the Botany
Department  at  Berkeley,  was chosen as her adviser since Davis
did not have a graduate program at the time. Dr. Esau decided to
conduct an anatomical study of the effect of the curly-top virus
upon the plant after  leafhoppers  were  banned  to  permit  the
development  of  other  sugarbeet research. Dr. Esau was awarded
the Ph.D. in botany in December 1931.

Upon graduation, Dr. Robbins offered Dr. Esau  the  position  of
Instructor  in  Botany  and  Junior  Botanist  in the Experiment
Station of the College of Agriculture. Dr. Esau was assigned  to
teach  Plant  Anatomy,  Systematic  Botany,  Morphology  of Crop
Plants, and Microtechnique. Dr. Esau served 6 years - the  maxi-
mum  number  -  in  each  rank  until the attainment of the full
professorship in 1949, when she reached the age of 51.

Dr. Esau's research emphasized exploring the  so-called  phloem-
limited  viruses. In the early 1960s, Dr. Esau became one of the
first plant electron microscopists, and greatly  contributed  to
the  understanding  of  virus-plant host relations. She has pub-
lished books and numerous articles in this area of research.

She conducted much of this work in a building intended to  serve
as  a  garage  at  UC-Davis  - a building that housed the Botany
Department in part, during her four years as a graduate  student
at Davis. She still occupied this area when she was named to the
National  Academy  of  Sciences  in 1957. She moved to her first
proper laboratory, in Robbins Hall, in 1960. Dr. Esau  moved  to
Santa  Barbara in 1963 to continue her collaborative research on
the phloem with Dr. Vernon Cheadle. In 1989, she was awarded the
National Medal of Science by President George Bush.

An address summarizing her interesting life was given by Dr. Ray
Evert in 1985. A revised version published first  in  the  Plant
Science  Bulletin  is  available  at  the  Botanical  Society of
America site at URL: http://www.botany.org/bsa/esau.html

   Scott D. Russell
   Department of Botany & Microbiology
    & Noble Electron Microscopy Lab
   University of Oklahoma,
   Norman, OK 73019-0245  USA
   e-mail: srussell at ou.edu


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