Colleagues, family, and friends established this award in honor of Robert W. Fulton for the contributions he made to the science of plant pathology through his research, teaching, and service.
Bob Fulton was born on January 28, 1914, in Sisterville, WV, but his family moved to Wisconsin when he was a child. He graduated from Viroqua High School in 1931 and obtained a B.A. degree in botany from Wabash College in 1935. His graduate studies were conducted at the University of Wisconsin, where he obtained a Ph.D. degree in 1940. His initial professional career was in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Wisconsin, where he became an expert on tobacco diseases. His career was interrupted by World War II, and he was proud to have served his country from 1942 to 1946 as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He was appointed to the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin in 1947, where he established a world-class program on stone-fruit viruses until his retirement in 1984. He published more than 125 research papers on numerous aspects of viruses, including isolation, structure, properties, and transmission. In 1970, Professor Fulton was elected a Fellow of The American Phytopathological Society in recognition of his contributions to the field of plant virology.
Professor Fulton had a very productive career as a scientist, teacher, and mentor to graduate students and distinguished editor of scientific journals. He was a quiet, reserved man who preferred to work alone and had no patience with ordinary chitchat or gossip. A man of few words, he was, nevertheless, a demanding, punctilious editor who had intimate knowledge of the English language. An avid sportsman, his quiet demeanor would change to excitement only when describing his fishing or hunting adventures. An expert lapidary, he cut and polished precious stones in a highly professional fashion—one of several hobbies that helped him face retirement when that dreaded day arrived.
Professor Fulton was a prodigious worker and rigorous scientist. He could spend endless hours in the laboratory or the greenhouse, intensely devoted to the task at hand and oblivious of the noise and activities around him. Quiet competence are words that one associates with Bob’s professional life. Many of his colleagues remember that during the early 1960s the lights in his office always seemed to be on at night, where he was continuously editing manuscripts for Phytopathology and single-handedly proofreading and publishing that journal (Editorial Board, 1958–1960; editor-in-chief, 1961–1963). Nowadays, the same work is done by APS staff in St. Paul, MN, with a long list of senior and associate editors who make the job of editor-in-chief much easier. During his career, Bob was an editor of Virology (1965–1970) and a member of many editorial committees, including those involved in preparing the Golden Jubilee Volume (Plant Pathology: Problems and Progress, 1908–1958), a book that remains a landmark in our professional development. He was a contributor to numerous books on plant virology and was a frequent reviewer of this field in the Annual Review of Phytopathology. Bob also took the time to write about the life of his mentor, James Johnson, and to describe the unusual role of Wabash College, his alma mater, as a source of numerous distinguished plant scientists.
Bob taught the departmental course on plant virology for many years, but his impact as a teacher was mainly as a mentor to graduate students. That most of the graduate students who completed their Ph.D. degrees under his direction have gone on to distinguished careers is probably the best testimony of Professor Fulton’s lasting influence in the field of virology. Bob passed away on January 9, 2004.