Richard “Dick” Hamilton was born in Montreal, Quebec Province, Canada on December 14, 1930, and passed away on October 30, 2012, due to complications from Alzheimer's Disease.
Dick received a B.S. degree in agronomy at Montana State University, Bozeman, in 1953, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, in 1956 and 1960, respectively. Dick's advisor was Bill Allington. As a graduate student he worked on the purification, stability, and serology of bromegrass mosaic virus (BMV), prune dwarf virus, and prunus necrotic ringspot virus and was mentored by Myron Brakke and Ellen Ball.
Montana State University, Department of Plant Pathology (1960 to 1967).
In 1960 he returned to Montana State and joined the faculty in the Department of Botany and Bacteriology. Here he began his investigations on cereal and fruit tree viruses. Dick taught a graduate course in plant virology but was best known at MSU for his work on the development of a practical serological assay for barley stripe mosaic virus (BSMV). Prior to Dick's work, this seedborne virus was detected only by growing out barley seedlings in the greenhouse and observing for symptoms of the disease. This was labor-intensive, and took 6-8 weeks to complete. His research interests included an antigenic analysis of BSMV and the effects of detergents on the degradation of its virion and its capsid protein. Because of Dick's expertise in immunology, he was able to develop an antiserum specific for BSMV which he used in a rapid and simple immuno-diffusion tests for the virus that could be detected in individual barley embryos, with results in 24 hours. This quick, sensitive, and inexpensive test was adopted by the Seed-Testing Laboratory at MSU. Samples of all certified barley seed produced in Montana were eventually tested and infected seed lots were destroyed. As a result, the virus and the disease it caused soon became of low incidence and concern in the state - a real world plant disease management success story. He also collaborated with Mitro Afanasiev on virus diseases of stone fruits, including a "little cherry"-like disease, in the Flathead Lake area.
Macdonald College of McGill University, Department of Plant Pathology (1967 to 1972)
In 1967, he joined the department of Plant Pathology, Macdonald College of McGill University at Ste. Anne de Bellevue in Quebec Province, Canada as the first plant virologist in the University. He developed a graduate level course in plant virology and an undergraduate course in virology. His research included the supervision of graduate student thesis projects in areas including seed transmission of plant viruses and interactions between viruses in mixed infections. Work with southern bean mosaic virus established that seed transmission was not via embryo infection but from virus held in the seed coat, where the virus underwent in-vivo modification as the seed dried. He demonstrated that barley plants infected with BSMV became susceptible to high titer systemic invasion by tobacco mosaic virus (TMV), a virus that normally remained subliminally present in only inoculated leaves when in single infection in barley. Work with BMV involved efforts to isolate replication complexes from infected plants.
Vancouver Research Station, Agriculture Canada, Plant Pathology (1972 to 1995)
In 1972 he joined the Virus Chemistry and Physiology section of the Vancouver Research Station of Agriculture Canada, taking his graduate students with him from McGill University. His research continued to focus on the interaction of unrelated viruses and virus strains in mixed infections and the transmission of viruses by seed and pollen. Research on mixed infections in barley resulted in detection and quantification of a significant proportion of the RNA genome population of TMV encapsidated within capsids assembled from BSMV structural proteins, the phenomenon known as genomic masking or transcapsidation. He also showed that BMV, as well as BSMV, could facilitate the systemic movement and infection of cereals by TMV. He completed research on serological methods for detecting pea seedborne mosaic virus in pea seed. He observed the contamination of the pollen exine by plant viruses and suggested that contaminated pollen may play a role in the plant-to-plant spread of some plant viruses. He also demonstrated the presence of virus particles and virus induced inclusions in the embryonic cells of soybean seeds infected with tobacco ringspot virus, a proof of true embryo infection.
Dick also led several successful projects that applied the benefits of plant pathology research to agriculture in developing countries. In one of these, funded by the International Development Research Centre (Ottawa), he led a collaboration between Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Ibadan, Nigeria and 30 national program scientists in western and southern Africa so that the powerful new tool of monoclonal antibodies would benefit efforts to control viruses of major African food crops. In another project, funded by the International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (Rome), he made sure a critical diagnostic test could be made available quickly to address the challenge of a mixed virus infection that was causing a serious disease of sweet potato, an essential staple, in tropical Africa.
Throughout his career Dick Hamilton was chosen by his peers for leadership roles. He authored and coauthored several invited review papers and participated in international symposia. He served as associate editor and senior editor of PHYTOPATHOLOGY, and as chairman and member of the Virology Committee and the Seed Pathology committee of APS, respectively.
He was chair of the Plant Virus Subcommittee of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses and has served on the Program Committee of the International Congress of Virology. He was an active member of the International Working Group on Legume Viruses. He has been a member of the Editorial Board of the Annual Review of Phytopathology and an associate editor of the Canadian Journal of Plant Pathology. He was elected to be a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society in 1986. He was president of both the Canadian Phytopathological Society (CPS, 1986) and the International Society of Plant Pathology (ISPP, 1993-1998) and was instrumental in bringing the 6th International Congress of Plant Pathology (in 1993) to Montreal.
While president of the ISPP he approached ProMed - the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases - which is an Internet-based reporting system dedicated to rapid global dissemination of information on outbreaks of infectious diseases that affect human health. This lead to the addition of alerts on outbreaks of plant diseases to this important program which till that time concerned itself with human and livestock pathogens. Dick served as the plant disease moderator for several years.
His recent obituary in the Vancouver Sun stated "Dick felt a deep spiritual connection with music and the wilderness and was committed to helping others, both professionally and in his personal life, through numerous charitable activities", and these comments will resonate with all of us who had our lives touched by this special man. Not the least of these are his former graduate students, listed here in the approximate order of the dates they received their degrees; David Gumpf (Montana State University), Sandy Ednie, P. Shivanathan, Paul Lamptey, Jack Morris, John McDonald, Allan Dodds, Ben Borrell, Ann-Fook Yang (all McGill University). David Pekkala, Thandie Molefe, Steve Haber, Ana Lucia Fuentes and Peter Ellis (all University of British Columbia).
During his last days Dick was surrounded by his loving family and friends. He will always be remembered and missed by Eleanor, his devoted wife of 59 years; children, Peggy (Bernard), Jenny (John), Jim (Sue), Dave (Julie); his grandchildren, and his great granddaughter; sisters Gail Walker and Joan Grice.
Anyone wishing to leave a message can do so at the Guest Book set up in Dick's name at the Vancouver Sun.
This announcement was submitted by Allan Dodds, professor emeritus, Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, University of California, Riverside, CA.