Harry Marshall Ward and the Fungal Thread of Death is a fascinating biography that reflects the changes that occurred in both society and plant science in the late 19th century. Harry Marshall Ward’s reputation has until now rested on discoveries about the transmission of plant disease that he made while studying coffee leaf disease in Ceylon. Important as these were, both biologically and in establishing his reputation as a researcher, historical perspective shows that they are much less significant than his role in establishing the pre-eminence of British botany in the early years of the 20th century and his part in the origins of physiological plant pathology. Neither of these roles has been properly recognized before now and they form the core of this biography.Late in Queen Victoria’s reign, the old science of botany was galvanized by a revolutionary doctrine: investigation by experiment. In the 1870s, a small group of young men from around the world were attracted to study in the German laboratories of Anton De Bary and Julius Sachs where they were taught to rely on their own observations rather than textbooks, and above all, to investigate by experiment. They carried away this new philosophy and revolutionized botany in their own countries. Harry Marshall Ward was one of these few young scientists.His laboratory-based discoveries of the way pathogens use enzymes to attack plants, and the way plant cells defend themselves, are at the heart of our current understanding of infection and resistance mechanisms, and of plant breeding. Studies of the microbiology of brewing and of drinking waters diverted him from plant disease but led him to become an early advocate of applied biology. In his last years, as Professor of Botany at Cambridge University, he modernized the teaching of botany, guiding young men such as Biffen (plant breeding) and Freeman (plant pathology), who, in their turn, became world leaders in their subjects. Ward made major contributions to the affairs of the British Association and was twice President of the young British Mycological Society. He died at the early age of 52, but left a rich scientific legacy.This fascinating book will be of interest to plant pathologists; mycologists; historians of science, agriculture, or biology; and professors/instructors of biology. The science is explained in simple language and diagrams making it accessible to biology students or anyone with an interest in plant biology.
Click here to read the Prologue. Click here to read Chapter 1.
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