Clive Brasier was born in Buckinghamshire, Great Britain, in 1942. He received his B.S. degree in botany in 1963 and his Ph.D. degree in mycology in 1966, both from the University of Hull, England. He was awarded the D.Sc. in plant biology and genetics in 1984, also from Hull. After working as a research fellow in the genetics department at the University of Birmingham, Professor Brasier joined the British Forestry Commission’s Research Division as a senior scientific officer, later becoming the highest-grade scientist in the Division. He officially retired from the Forestry Commission in 2002 but maintains a unique status as Emeritus Mycologist with that agency and a visiting professorship at Imperial College in London. His professional pace has only increased since retirement.
Clive Brasier’s research program has made significant contributions in several different areas of plant pathology. The most noteworthy of these have dealt with the population biology, taxonomy, and international spread of Dutch elm disease and Phytophthora pathogens; biological control of forest pathogens with fungal viruses; rapid pathogen evolution via interspecific hybridization and “jumping genes”; fungal species concepts and fungal speciation processes; and the risks posed by plant health and international trade protocols. Of special note is the discovery that the resurgence of Dutch elm disease in Europe resulted from the introduction of a new, highly virulent species of pathogen. This highlighted the dangers posed to forests and natural ecosystems by invasive pathogens. The result has been an unprecedented documentation of the global ecological genetics of the pathogens and a concurrent view of the evolutionary and ecological forces driving the epidemics. This work has greatly influenced modern thinking on how introduced plant pathogens can change and evolve and how the risk posed by these processes can be assessed.
In addition, Professor Brasier has been influential in the arena of Phytophthora research through his work on the evolutionary biology of the genus. This has included studies on physiological mechanisms of heterothallism and self-fertility; production, with the late Eva Sansome, of the cytological evidence for diploidy in various species including P. infestans; and work elucidating species structure and molecular phylogeny of Phytophthora complexes, including important Phytophthora pathogens of cocoa, forests, and natural ecosystems. Recently, he has shown, with colleagues in the United Kingdom, that a new Phytophthora pathogen killing alders across Europe comprises a swarm of heteroploid, unstable, and still evolving hybrids between two or more different Phytophthora species. This nicely parallels other recent work from his group, showing that mating type and vegetative compatibility genes are jumping the species barrier in Ophiostoma species.
Undoubtedly, Professor Brasier is one of the world’s foremost mycologists/pathologists specializing in tree diseases. He is the former chair of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) Working Group on vascular wilts, and he cofounded and is currently the co-chair of the IUFRO Working Group on Phytophthora species. A major reason for the widespread interest in Professor Brasier’s work is its strong international dimension. This is illustrated by his detailed tracking of the changing face of Dutch elm disease around the world and his demonstration of the role of P. cinnamomi in the widespread live oak mortality in the Iberian Peninsula. Most recently, he recognized that another Phytophthora species causing a serious new disease of oak in California was already present in Europe and could pose a threat to trees in the United Kingdom.
In collaboration with Professor Ken Buck and colleagues at the Imperial College, Clive Brasier’s pioneering work on the viruses infecting the Dutch elm fungal pathogens and their possible exploitation for biological control has received considerable international interest. A major contribution was the discovery and molecular characterization of the novel mitochondrial viruses, which are now classified in the genus Mitovirus in the family Narnaviridae. In parallel, he has characterized the pathogen’s genetic systems that control virus spread. Collaborating with colleagues in Dundee, Scotland, Clive Brasier has also helped successfully pioneer methods of genetic transformation of elms as a means of introducing novel resistance into threatened native elm species.
Clive Brasier leads a small team of researchers at Alice Holt and (with Ken Buck) at Imperial College and is an inspiration to them all. He expects much from them but always expects even more from himself. Over the years, he has acted as a mentor to a stream of young scientists and students and has always been generous in sharing ideas and time. His work is of the highest quality, as evidenced by his many publications in some of the most prestigious international journals. The quality of Professor Brasier’s work and his ability to collaborate has also attracted many research workers from around the world. Students as well as senior researchers come to Britain to work with him, and he in turn works regularly with scientists in Britain and throughout Europe and in Asia, Australia, Canada, and the United States.
Clive Brasier’s international stature is also evident in his service on various review panels, research advisory committees, and in international research consortia such as the European Union and NATO. He has also been a featured symposium speaker at many International Mycological Congresses and International Congresses of Plant Pathology. In recent years, he has presented invited overviews on threats from invasive diseases, hybrid pathogens, and associated quarantine issues at a range of agency- and academic-led symposia across the United States. When APS wanted an international perspective for their online discussion of invasive pathogens on timber and the most recent online discussion of Sudden Oak Death, they turned to Professor Brasier.