Announcements, Nominations and Applications, Part I

In Memoriam

William Raymond Philipson

The Botanical Society has been notified that Corresponding Member William Raymond Philipson passed away earlier this year. A note from Professor Philipson's widow is reprinted below.

Oak Tree Cottage
17 Jellicoe St.
New Zealand


The Secretary,

Botanical Society of America

Dear Sir,

It is with deep regret that I write with the sad news that my husband, Professor William Raymond Philipson, died suddenly on 28th March.

As he had been a Corresponding Member of the Society for many years, you will be aware of his international standing & his botanical achievements.

Yours sincerely,
Melva N. Philipson


The grande dame of American botany -- indeed, of botany worldwide -- Katherine Esau, died on June 4, 1997, in Santa Barbara, California. With her passing, the biological community has lost one of the truly distinguished botanists of all time. An era in the discipline of plant anatomy has come to an end.

Katherine Esau was born on April 3, 1898, in the City of Yekatherinoslav, now called Dnepropetrovsk, in Ukraine. Dr. Esau's family was Mennonite, descendants of German Mennonites invited to Russia by Katherine the Great to promote agriculture on the steppes of the Ukraine.

Dr. Esau, her parents, and her brother left Russia for Germany in 1918, during the Russian revolution, interrupting her schooling after one year at the Golitsin Women's Agricultural College in Moscow. In Germany, she registered in the Agricultural College of Berlin. After graduation in 1922, she and her parents immigrated to the United States, and settled in Reedly, California, the location of a Mennonite community. Her initial employment in the U.S. was with the Sloan Seed Company in Oxnard, California. She then moved to the Spreckels Sugar Company, in the Salinas Valley, where she bred strains of sugarbeets for resistance to the virus causing curly-top disease. At that time, she began to consider continuing her education.

In 1928, Dr. Esau enrolled in the College of Agriculture at Davis, where she investigated the transmission of the curly-top disease and its effect on the phloem. Dr. Esau received her Ph.D. in 1932, and remained at Davis to become a Professor of Botany. In 1963, two years before she was to retire, she moved to Santa Barbara to continue her collaborative research on the phloem with Vernon I. Cheadle, who had accepted the position of Chancellor of the Santa Barbara campus. She remained actively engaged in research for 24 more years.

Throughout her career, Dr. Esau continued research on phloem both in relation to the effects of the phloem-limited viruses upon plant structure and development and to the unique structure of the sieve tube as a conduit of food. Very early, Dr. Esau demonstrated an exceptional ability for attacking basic problems, and she set new standards of excellence for the investigation of anatomical problems in the plant sciences.

In 1953, Dr. Esau's enduring classic Plant Anatomy - known worldwide as the "Bible of Plant Anatomy" - was published. This was followed by Anatomy of Seed Plants, in 1960. Both of these books have been published in several languages, including Russian, and have extended her influence on the quality of instruction of plant anatomy into classrooms all over the world. The developmental aspects of her studies matured into Vascular Differentiation in Plants (1965), and her interest in virus-plant host relations into Plants, Viruses, and Insects (1961) and Viruses in Plant Hosts (1968).

Dr. Esau served as President of the Botanical Society of America in 1951, and in 1956 was one of the original recipients of the Merit Award of the Society at its Fiftieth Anniversary Meeting, which was held at the University of Connecticut. The Certificate of Merit read: "Katherine Esau, plant anatomist and histologist, for her numerous contributions on tissue development of vascular plants and in particular for her outstanding studies on the structure, development, and evolution of phloem." Many more honors were to come her way.

I first learned of Dr. Esau in 1953, when I was enrolled in Dr. David A. Kribs' plant anatomy class at Penn State. I was working for an M.S. in Botany. During the first class meeting, Dr. Kribs mentioned that, unfortunately, Dr. Esau's Plant Anatomy book would not be available in time to use for the class. (He and others were anxiously awaiting the arrival of the "Bible.") Instead, we would use Introduction to Plant Anatomy by Eames and MacDaniels. Plant Anatomy arrived to great excitement about three-quarters of the way through the semester. By then I had heard Dr. Esau and her work mentioned a great many times. It was obvious that she was someone quite special. The following year, in 1954, during a seminar that dealt partly with phloem, I was hooked. I decided to pursue the Ph.D. in Botany and to work on phloem. When I told Dr. Kribs of my plan he said: "Then there is only one place to go, Davis, to work with Katherine Esau." I certainly knew who Dr. Esau was, but where was Davis? On the basis of a letter from Dr. Kribs, Dr. Esau invited me to work with her.

When I first saw Dr. Esau, she was riding a bicycle, which she did regularly to and from the Botany Department. (At that time, Botany was housed in a converted garage.) I had an appointment with her. Not knowing whether the person I had seen was Dr. Esau, I waited until after she entered the building to approach her office door. Behind that door I found a friendly individual with a ready smile and a keen sense of humor. This person I had envisioned on a pedestal (not a bicycle) quickly put me at ease. During that first meeting, it was decided that I would do my Ph.D. research on the seasonal development of the phloem of the pear tree - a parallel study to her work on the grapevine.

Dr. Esau was unselfish with her time. For the first two years, we met almost weekly to examine the newest slides I had prepared from the tissue collections. Sitting side-by-side, each of us examining the sections with separate microscopes, we would discuss our findings. Dr. Esau would explain her observations and interpretations, and I would soak it all in. What a wonderful way to learn, and from the very best person possible. As I was weaned, our sessions became less frequent, but she always made herself available when I had something to discuss with her. The next most intensive period came with the writing of the thesis - another learning experience.

Dr. Esau was a superb teacher, in part because she genuinely liked students. She never failed to reply to a note or letter from a student, offering encouragement and/or praise. Her course in plant anatomy was exceptional. Although she served as major professor for only 15 doctoral students, there are numerous botanists, including many who have never met her but have studied her papers and books, who consider themselves her students. She instilled in her students an appreciation of the precision and rigor that go into truly excellent studies of plant structure and development. In every aspect of her work she set new standards of excellence. I can hear her saying: "Ray, one can never be too careful."

Katherine Esau was the personification of excellence and integrity. Despite her numerous successes and many honors, she remained modest and close to her Mennonite roots. Some of her honors include honorary degrees from Mills College, Oakland, California (1962) and the University of California (1966) and election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Swedish Royal Academy of Science.

Her career has no parallel. In 1989, she was awarded the President's National Merit of Science. The citation accompanying the medal reads: "In recognition of her distinguished service to the American community of plant biologists, and for excellence of her pioneering research, both basic and applied, on plant structure and development, which has spanned more than six decades; for her superlative performance as an educator, in the classroom and through her books; for the encouragement and inspiration she has given to a legion of young, aspiring plant biologists; and for providing a special role model for women in science."

- Ray F. Evert

Editor's note: A memorial article on Dr. Esau and her contributions to Botany will appear in a forthcoming issue of AMERICAN JOURNAL OF BOTANY.


It is with much regret that I report that David Bierhorst died on May 19. As all of us know, David had a distinguished career as a developmental and evolutionary biologist. David was on the faculty of the University of Virginia, Cornell University and the University of Massachusetts. He is best known for his pioneering research into the structure and development of gametophytes and sporophytes of ferns and fern allies; as well as his seminal contribution of the creative text Morphology of Vascular Plants that was published in 1971.

Although I never met David Bierhorst, last year I telephoned him at his home in Louisiana to inquire about aspects of gametophyte structure. A neighbor answered the telephone and reported that David was in the hospital for major heart surgery. One week later, having just been discharged from the hospital, David called me at my office to discuss, at considerable length, gametophyte development. It was a wonderful conversation. Although retired, David's devotion to botany and his willingness to share his knowledge were as strong as ever.

David is survived by his wife, Millie, two children and seven grandchildren.

- William (Ned) Friedman

Editor's Note: Reprinted above is a note sent to the members of the Developmental and Structural Section by Ned Friedman, University of Colorado. An obituary article on Dr. Bierhorst is is scheduled for publication in the AMERICAN FERN JOURNAL later this year.

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