This award was established to support student travel to annual meetings of The American Phytopathological Society.
John S. Niederhauser was born on September 27, 1916, in Seattle, WA, and spent the early years of his life on an apple ranch in central Washington. His family then moved to California, where he graduated from Palo Alto Union High School in 1933. He attended Deep Springs College in eastern California (1933–1935) and the Timuryazev All-Union Agricultural Academy in Moscow, USSR, for one year (1935–1936). He then returned to the United States, where he studied at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, and received his B.S. degree in 1939 and his Ph.D. degree in plant pathology in 1943. Dr. Herbert H. Whetzel was his major professor. After a year as a plant pathologist with the USDA in Washington, DC, Dr. Niederhauser returned in 1944 to Cornell University as an assistant professor in plant pathology, with responsibilities in teaching, research, and extension.
In 1947, he went to Mexico to work with the new international agricultural program of the Rockefeller Foundation, designed to help Third World countries produce more of their basic food crops, utilizing primarily their own resources. He worked for 20 years as the plant pathologist on the international wheat, corn, and bean programs. The Green Revolution of the 1960’s in India and Pakistan was a direct result of the International Wheat Program established there by a team under the leadership of Dr. Norman Borlaug, and on which Dr. Niederhauser served as a plant pathologist. In 1970 Dr. Borlaug received the Nobel Peace Prize for the remarkable success of this program.
During these two decades, Dr. Niederhauser also initiated and developed an International Potato Program established to produce more of this basic food in many countries where it had been known only as an expensive vegetable. By 1970, the International Potato Program had made a dramatic impact on potato production in 67 developing countries. In 1971, Dr. Niederhauser was a co-founder of the International Potato Center (CIP) in Lima, Peru. Though Dr. Niederhauser continued to reside in Mexico, for 10 years he served as director for the development of the regional programs of the International Potato Center.
The Mexican research program on potato late blight rapidly expanded into a world-wide cooperative project. Niederhauser and his Mexican colleagues discovered that Mexico is the place of origin of the causal fungus, Phytophthora infestans. Mexican wild potato species were utilized as sources of blight resistance in potato breeding programs all over the world. Mexico soon became a center for international cooperation in late blight research, with collaborators from many countries using the field trials in central Mexico in their search for a durable resistance to potato late blight. This collaborative effort finally evolved into an international project, PICTIPAPA, the International Cooperative Potato Late Blight Project, based in Mexico and in collaboration with potato programs in more than 15 countries.
Always interested in international cooperation in agricultural research and development, in 1978, Dr. Niederhauser founded PRECODEPA, the Programa Regional Cooperativo de Papa (Regional Cooperative Potato Program) in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Recognizing that no single country could afford or justify a complete potato development program, PRECODEPA has provided the structure and support for a regional potato program that makes each facet of a successful potato program available to each national participant. Dr. Niederhauser served as the coordinator of PRECODEPA for the first four years and has since served as a consultant for this program. PRECODEPA is now operating in its 23rd year, with 14 countries participating. The government of Switzerland has provided the necessary financial support, and has said that PRECODEPA is the most cost-effective agricultural program in its world-wide activities.
Though Dr. Niederhauser “retired” in 1980, he continued to participate in a number of programs for agricultural research and development. He served as a consultant with the Rockefeller Foundation, the International Potato Center, PRECODEPA, US-AID, Winrock, and other national and international agencies involved in international development. He also served as an adjunct professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Arizona.
Dr. Niederhauser received a great number of honors and awards during his career. Among them are honorary life memberships in the Chinese Society of Plant Pathology, the Potato Association of America, and the Indian Potato Association. The most notable award probably was the 1990 World Food Prize, given in recognition of his work with national programs that have dramatically increased potato production in many Third World countries. Established in 1987, the World Food Prize is given annually to an individual whose work has made a difference toward alleviating world hunger and malnutrition. Adding to a long list of awards and recognitions, his most recent honorary doctorate was awarded by Oregon State University in June 2002.
Dr. and Mrs. Niederhauser donated $100,000 of the World Food Prize to establish the John and Ann Niederhauser Endowment (JANE) Fund within the APS Foundation. An annual competition is held for research proposals designed to promote international collaboration in projects to improve food production, with some preference given to those involving potato late blight and its control. Awards have been made in amounts ranging up to $10,000. The JANE Technical Committee selects the recipient and is composed of three members selected by the Office of International Programs and approved by the APS Foundation Board.
In 1999, Dr. John and Ann Niederhauser designated that a portion of the earnings from the JANE Fund be used for a cash prize to accompany the International Service Award. The prize is $2,000 to the award recipient, and $1,000 to an international program recommended by the recipient. The International Service Award was established by the APS Council in 1998 to recognize outstanding contributions to plant pathology by APS members for a country other than his or her own. The recipient of this award is selected by the APS Awards and Honors Committee, and the first cash prize was given at the 2000 APS Annual Meeting.
Dr. Niederhauser attributed much of his success as a scientist to his wife, Ann Faber Niederhauser. When he received the World Food Prize on October 17, 1990, at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, an excerpt from his acceptance speech included these comments about Ann: “…And I wish to call your attention at this time to one very special person who has been a constant source of support and encouragement during my career. Not only has she traveled with me all over the world and shared the satisfaction of cooperating with our colleagues in so many countries, but she has created the home and family that have made my life so wonderful. Those of you who know her are aware of how vital she has been to whatever might have been accomplished.”
The Niederhausers have seven children and 12 grandchildren. Following a lengthy illness, Mrs. Niederhauser passed away on March 1, 2000. Donations in her memory can be directed to the JANE Fund. John passed away on August 12, 2005. Together, John and Ann devoted their lives to cooperative activities and projects all over the world in order to provide more food for a growing world population, while preserving the quality of the environment. An excellent review of “International Cooperation in Potato Research and Development” was authored by Dr. Niederhauser and appears in the Annual Review of Phytopathology (1993, 31:1-21).