Edward R. French
Edward R. French was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1937. He received his B.S. degree at the University of Rhode Island in 1960, his M.S. degree at the University of Minnesota in 1963, and his Ph.D. degree at North Carolina State University in plant pathology and plant breeding in 1965.
Dr. French returned to South America as a plant pathology advisor to the Government of Peru, establishing a collaborative research and teaching program between the Agricultural University and the Ministry of Agriculture SIPA Research Station. During 1970– 1971 he became the coleader of the National Potato Program, helping to establish the International Potato Center (CIP). Upon initiation of the center in 1972 he acted as deputy director general for research and head of five different departments during their inception, serving as head of the pathology department until 1991. Prior to his retirement from the center in 1997, he served as associate director of research.
An examination of Dr. French’s extensive list of publications will reveal an unusual breadth and quality of the research that he and his associates have carried out during the past 30 years. He has worked with a wide variety of diseases that affect potato, and he is considered an authority on the taxonomy and ecology of the bacteria that cause wilt and soft rot diseases. He not only was able to discover new and important strains of these bacteria in South America, but was responsible for the discovery of new sources of resistance among wild potatoes and for the testing and release of varieties that have resistance to wilt and that are still used in the highlands of the tropics. In recent years, he and his collaborators have emphasized integrated control of potato diseases and have promoted the use of multiple disease resistance in these programs. His work has ranged from very basic to highly applied, a major reason for the impact that he has had in efforts to control potato diseases worldwide.
Dr. French’s role in the establishment and success of CIP has resulted in a significant impact on plant pathology, not only in South America but throughout the world. Dozens of young scientists from around the world have worked with him at CIP and, through this experience, have been motivated and supported in obtaining their graduate education. His worldwide leadership in potato disease issues is illustrated by his continuing leadership of GILB, the worldwide network for research on late blight of potatoes. It is not surprising that he has received numerous honors in his career including honorary member of the Peruvian and the Latin American associations for phytopathology. He has been very active in the APS Caribbean Division, is a council member of the International Society of Plant Pathology, and was a leader in bringing the Asociacion Lationoamericana de Fitopatologia to a prominent position among Latin American plant pathology societies. In addition to his role as president of that society, he has been editor of its journal, Fitopatologia, for many years.