Giovanni P. Martelli was born in Palermo, Italy. He graduated “cum laude” in agricultural sciences from the University of Bari. He joined the faculty of the University of Bari and the Institute of Plant Pathology and rose through the professional ranks to full professor in 1973. He serves as chair of plant virology. Dr. Martelli fostered the establishment and directs the Research Center of the National Research Council of Italy on Viruses and Virus Diseases of Mediterranean Crops, which is administered through the Department of Plant Protection, University of Bari.
Dr. Martelli originally worked on plant protection and mycology, investigating the biology of fungal parasites of olive, grapevine, fruit and vegetable crops, and describing new pathogens and diseases. While at the University of California, Davis, in 1961- 1963, he developed his lifelong interest for virology under the guidance of Dr. W. B. Hewitt. Dr. Martelli has investigated viruses and virus diseases of a great variety of Mediterranean crops including vegetables, fruit trees, and, to a lesser extent, ornamental plants and weeds. He is a recognized authority on viruses and virus diseases of grapevines. He was particularly active in the study of the virus-host relationship at the ultracellular level, and conducted exhaustive investigations on the cytopathology of virus infections, structure and nature of inclusion bodies, and intracellular site of synthesis of viral nucleic acids and proteins.
In the late 1980s, Dr. Martelli established a research unit for biotechnological applications and the development of improved laboratory reagents based on the recombinant DNA and monoclonal antibody technologies. He also initiated a clean stock program for the production of virus disease-free grapevines and fruit trees by securing support for facilities devoted to heat therapy, meristem tip culture, and micropropagation.
Dr. Martelli served as an associate editor of Phytopathology and of the European Journal of Plant Pathology. He was president of the Associazione Fitopatologica Italiana and a member of the Council of the Italian Phytopathological Society.
Dr. Martelli has demonstrated a career-long dedication to the science of plant pathology. He has been innovative in establishing laboratories and programs for pursuing basic knowledge of plant viruses, implementing sound strategies for their control, and training of young scientists from countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.