Those who had the good fortune to meet Luigi Chiarappa will never forget his humor and excitement for life, his ability to inspire and motivate others around him, and his dedication to family, humanity, and the profession of plant pathology. Luigi passed away on September 30, 2010, in California, after a long illness. He is sincerely missed by all who knew him, especially his wife Nicla, who was his constant companion and caregiver in recent years, his three daughters Victoria, Marina, and Cynthia, and extended family.
Luigi was born and raised in Italy during the period leading up to WWII. He obtained a B.S. degree in agronomy in 1950, married his wife Nicla in 1951, and together they immigrated to the United States in 1952. Life in the “new world” began as a hired hand on a chicken farm in Vermont. From there, Luigi and Nicla moved to Delano, CA, to work as an assistant entomologist with the Di Giorgio Fruit Company. The work was hard and they were housed in a converted boxcar—both of which increased the challenge of “making it” in America. At the Di Giorgio Company, Luigi met William B. Hewitt, a professor at the University of California-Davis (UC Davis), a plant pathologist, and a world authority on grape diseases, who invited Luigi to apply to UC Davis to pursue a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology.
Luigi studied at UC Davis for a Ph.D. degree, graduating in a record time of two years and eight months in 1957. His dissertation research was on the black measles disease of grape vines, a disease of the 1950s that is now being rediscovered in Europe. Following the completion of his Ph.D. degree, Luigi returned to the Di Giorgio Company as a plant pathologist and continued there for several years until he accepted an offer from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in Rome in 1962. His achievements at FAO as a plant pathologist specializing in tropical diseases were substantial. His research took him to many countries and in contact with an imposing array of diseases as well as scientific collaborators. Luigi promoted programs to select resistant materials within local cultivars and in training farmers to use cultural approaches to reduce diseases. Based on his scientific successes and his ability to mobilize scientists and farmers to collaborate on local problems, he was appointed the chief of plant protection service for all of FAO.
Highlights of Luigi’s work at FAO included programs for control for coconut lethal yellowing; promotion of durable resistance breeding programs in staple crops, such as potatoes; establishment of the International Program on Horizontal Resistance; and developing programs for the safe movement and protection of valuable germplasm. Perhaps the project with the most sustained impact that Luigi conceived, developed, and obtained funding for was the development of an international, coordinated network for the production, testing, and distribution of virusfree rootstocks for fruit trees that was ultimately funded by both UNDP and FAO. Chiarappa retired from FAO after 23 years of dedicated and widely appreciated service to international agriculture1. Luigi and Nicla, a full partner in all of his career and life activities, returned to Davis (and then Livermore), CA, in retirement. We express the view of many colleagues and friends in reflection that Luigi Chiarappa was an exceptional person, a consummate global international plant pathologist, and colleague who will be missed greatly by all whose paths he crossed. 1Chiarappa, L. and N. 1999. Two immigrants from Italy. GG Press, El Macero, CA, U.S.A.
Submission prepared by David Gilchrist, professor of plant pathology, University of California-Davis, and Wallace Cowling, Winthrop professor, the University of Western Australia.