Thomas W. Whitaker

Last updated
Thomas W. Whitaker
Thomas W Whitaker crop.jpg
Born(1904-08-13)13 August 1904
Died29 November 1993(1993-11-29) (aged 89)
La Jolla, California
Occupation Botanist, horticulturalist
Years active1936-1990

Thomas Wallace Whitaker (August 13, 1904 – November 29, 1993) was an American botanist and horticulturist who spent most of his career working as a geneticist for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). He specialized in the study of economically important plants such as squashes, investigating their systematics and resistance to disease.

Botany science of plant life

Botany, also called plant science(s), plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist or phytologist is a scientist who specialises in this field. The term "botany" comes from the Ancient Greek word βοτάνη (botanē) meaning "pasture", "grass", or "fodder"; βοτάνη is in turn derived from βόσκειν (boskein), "to feed" or "to graze". Traditionally, botany has also included the study of fungi and algae by mycologists and phycologists respectively, with the study of these three groups of organisms remaining within the sphere of interest of the International Botanical Congress. Nowadays, botanists study approximately 410,000 species of land plants of which some 391,000 species are vascular plants, and approximately 20,000 are bryophytes.

Horticulture branch of agriculture involving plants

Horticulture has been defined as the culture of plants for food, comfort and beauty. A more precise definition can be given as "The cultivation, processing, and sale of fruits, nuts, vegetables, ornamental plants, and flowers as well as many additional services". It also includes plant conservation, landscape restoration, soil management, landscape and garden design, construction, and maintenance, and arboriculture. In contrast to agriculture, horticulture does not include large-scale crop production or animal husbandry.

Geneticist biologist who studies genetics

A geneticist is a biologist who studies genetics, the science of genes, heredity, and variation of organisms.

Contents

Early life and education

Whitaker was born August 14, 1904, in Monrovia, California. [1] He grew up on a farm and worked his way through college, graduating from University of California, Davis in 1927 with a bachelor of science degree. Continuing his education under a DuPont Fellowship, he graduated from the University of Virginia (UVA) with a master's degree in 1929 and PhD in 1931. Both of those degrees were in biology with concentrations in genetics and cytology. While at UVA, he spent summers at the Blandy Experimental Farm. He did postdoctoral work at Bussey Institution and Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University. [1] [2] [3]

Monrovia, California City in California

Monrovia is a city located in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County, California, United States. The population was 36,590 at the 2010 census, down from 36,929 in 2000. Monrovia has been used for filming TV shows, movies and commercials.

University of California, Davis public university located in Davis, California, United States

The University of California, Davis, is a public research university and land-grant university adjacent to Davis, California. It is part of the University of California (UC) system and has the third-largest enrollment in the UC System after UCLA and UC Berkeley. The institution was founded as a branch in 1909 and became its own separate entity in 1959. It has been labeled one of the "Public Ivies", a publicly funded university considered to provide a quality of education comparable to those of the Ivy League.

University of Virginia public research university in Charlottesville, Virginia, United States

The University of Virginia is a public research university in Charlottesville, Virginia. The flagship university of Virginia, it is also a World Heritage site of the United States. It was founded in 1819 by Declaration of Independence author and former President Thomas Jefferson. UVA is known for its historic foundations, student-run honor code, and secret societies.

Career

Whitaker served as an associate professor at the women-only Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, from 1934-1936. In 1936 he began working as a geneticist for the USDA and remained in that role until he retired in 1973. While with the USDA he lived in La Jolla, California, and worked in the nearby Imperial Valley Experiment Station near Brawley, California. [1] [4] Whitaker specialized in amaryllis, cantaloupes and other Cucurbita , and lettuce in the search for disease resistance and better taste, and he investigated plant systematics. Whitaker died on November 29, 1993, in La Jolla. [1] [2]

Agnes Scott College womens liberal arts college in Decatur, Georgia

Agnes Scott College is a women's private liberal arts college in downtown Decatur, Georgia.

Decatur, Georgia City in Georgia, United States

Decatur is a city in, and the county seat of, DeKalb County, Georgia that is part of the Atlanta metropolitan area. With a population of 20,148 in the 2013 census, the municipality is sometimes assumed to be larger since multiple ZIP Codes in unincorporated DeKalb County bear the Decatur name. The city is served by three MARTA rail stations. The city is located approximately 5 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta and shares its western border with Atlanta.

Brawley, California City in California, United States

Brawley is a city in the Imperial Valley and within Imperial County, southern California, United States.

Accolades

Cucurbita fruits: Whitaker vastly increased knowledge of the genus. 2006-10-18Cucurbita pepo06.jpg
Cucurbita fruits: Whitaker vastly increased knowledge of the genus.

L.C. Merrick and R.W. Robinson, both academics in biological sciences, stated that Whitaker did more to advance knowledge of cucurbits than any other single person, and dedicated the germplasm section of the conference "Cucurbitaceae '98" to him. He was also the recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships. [2] [5] Volume 3 of Horticultural Reviews (1981) is dedicated to Whitaker. [3] Personally unassuming, on several occasions he is known to have not mentioned himself when discussing a discovery he had made. [3]

Cucurbitaceae family of plants

The Cucurbitaceae, also called cucurbits and the gourd family, are a plant family consisting of about 965 species in around 95 genera, the most important of which are:

Germplasm

Germplasm are living genetic resources such as seeds or tissues that are maintained for the purpose of animal and plant breeding, preservation, and other research uses. These resources may take the form of seed collections stored in seed banks, trees growing in nurseries, animal breeding lines maintained in animal breeding programs or gene banks, etc. Germplasm collections can range from collections of wild species to elite, domesticated breeding lines that have undergone extensive human selection. Germplasm collection is important for the maintenance of biological diversity and food security.

Guggenheim Fellowships are grants that have been awarded annually since 1925 by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to those "who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts". The roll of Fellows includes numerous Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer, and other prize winners.

Whitaker served in several botanical societies. He was a recipient of the Botanical Society of America's Merit Award and a volume of the society's Horticultural Review is dedicated to him. He was also the recipient in 1976 of that society's highest award, making him a "Distinguished Fellow of the Botanical Society of America": "For distinguished contributions to the understanding of economic plants, notably their improvement, and for a unique contribution in interpreting this understanding in terms of their domestication and their influence on the development of civilizations." [6] After retiring from the USDA, he traveled internationally extensively, collecting over 1,300 seed samples,three-quarters of which were cucurbits. He published over 70 academic articles during his lifetime. His last two articles were published in 1986 and 1990. [2] He was editor of the journal HortScience. [3]

The Botanical Society of America (BSA) represents professional and amateur botanists, researchers, educators and students in over 80 countries of the world. It functions as a United States nonprofit 501(c)(3) membership society.

Whitaker named these species: [7]

Amaryllidaceae A family of flowering plants comprising members popular for horticulture and vegetable production

The Amaryllidaceae are a family of herbaceous, mainly perennial and bulbous flowering plants in the monocot order Asparagales. The family takes its name from the genus Amaryllis and is commonly known as the amaryllis family. The leaves are usually linear, and the flowers are usually bisexual and symmetrical, arranged in umbels on the stem. The petals and sepals are undifferentiated as tepals, which may be fused at the base into a floral tube. Some also display a corona. Allyl sulfide compounds produce the characteristic odour of the onion subfamily (Allioideae).

<i>Amaryllis belladonna</i> species of plant

Amaryllis belladonna, is a plant species native to Cape Province in South Africa but widely cultivated as an ornamental. It is reportedly naturalized in many places: Corsica, Portugal, the Azores, Madeira, the Canary Islands, Zaire, Ascension Island, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Chile, California, Texas, Louisiana, and the Juan Fernández Islands.

<i>Cucurbita ecuadorensis</i> species of plant

Cucurbita ecuadorensis is a species of squash, discovered in 1965 growing wild in Ecuador. Like most wild gourds and squashes, it is creeping vine and is often found climbing over other vegetation. It has been found only in the western provinces of Guayas and Manabi. There is evidence that it was domesticated in Ecuador around 10,000 years ago, likely for its seeds, but no direct records exist and it is no longer cultivated. It is resistant to many diseases of cultivated Cucurbita species, and has been used to breed resistance to several diseases into common squashes. For example, researchers at Cornell University used Cucurbita ecuadorensis to breed resistance to papaya ringspot virus, watermelon mosaic virus, and powdery mildew, into common Cucurbita maxima cultivars. Cucurbita ecuadorensis is listed on the IUCN Red List as vulnerable, and is found protected in the Machalilla National Park.

Whitaker was honored with an eponymous summer squash variety, Cucurbita pepo summer-squash zucchini variety (Whitaker). [8] [9] This variety is highly disease-resistant and is parthenocarpic, having no seeds. [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]

The standard author abbreviation Whitaker is used to indicate this person as the author when citing a botanical name. [13]

Notes

Related Research Articles

<i>Cucurbita pepo</i> A species of cultivated plant of the family Cucurbitaceae which includes varieties of winter and summer squash and pumpkin

Cucurbita pepo is a cultivated plant of the genus Cucurbita. It yields varieties of winter squash and pumpkin, but the most widespread varieties belong to the subspecies Cucurbita pepo subsp. pepo, called summer squash.

<i>Cucurbita ficifolia</i> species of plant

Cucurbita ficifolia is a species of squash, grown for its edible seeds, fruit, and greens. It has many common names in English such as the fig-leaf gourd, Malabar gourd, black seed squash, and cidra. Although it is closely related to other squashes in its genus, such as the pumpkin, it shows considerable biochemical difference from them and does not hybridize readily with them.

<i>Cucurbita moschata</i> species of plant

Cucurbita moschata is a species originating in either Central America or northern South America. It includes cultivars known as squash or pumpkin. C. moschata cultivars are generally more tolerant of hot, humid weather than cultivars of C. maxima or C. pepo. They also generally display a greater resistance to disease and insects, especially to the squash vine borer. Commercially made pumpkin pie mix is most often made from varieties of C. moschata. The ancestral species of the genus Cucurbita were present in the Americas before the arrival of humans. Evolutionarily speaking the genus is relatively recent in origin as no species within the genus is genetically isolated from all the other species. C. moschata acts as the genetic bridge within the genus and is closest to the genus' progenitor.

<i>Cucurbita foetidissima</i> species of plant, Buffalo gourd

Cucurbita foetidissima is a tuberous xerophytic plant found in the central and southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It has numerous common names, including: buffalo gourd, calabazilla, chilicote, coyote gourd, fetid gourd, fetid wild pumpkin, Missouri gourd, prairie gourd, stinking gourd, wild gourd, and wild pumpkin. The type specimen was collected from Mexico by Humboldt and Bonpland sometime before 1817.

<i>Cucurbita palmata</i> species of plant

Cucurbita palmata is a species of flowering plant in the squash family known by the common names coyote melon and coyote gourd. It is similar to Cucurbita californica, Cucurbita cordata, Cucurbita cylindrata, and Cucurbita digitata and all these species hybridize readily. It was first identified by Sereno Watson in 1876. These species form the only restricted xerophyte species group in the genus Cucurbita. Each member of this species group is native to the Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico where they are relatively uncommon. Each group member is found in hot, arid regions with low rainfall. They prefer soil that is loose, gravelly, and well-drained. C. palmata is native to northeastern Baja California, southeastern California, and southwestern Arizona to a point near the Colorado River. The juvenile leaves of C. cylindrata, C. cordata, C. digitata, and C. palmata show a high degree of similarity, but their mature leaves are visibly different, as are their root structures. C. palmata and C. digitata are sympatric, with C. palmata separating the ranges of C. digitata at the juncture of Baja California, California, and Arizona. C. palmata fruits are diffuse green mottle that turns yellow at maturity, striped, and round.

<i>Cucurbita digitata</i> species of plant

Cucurbita digitata is a species of flowering plant in the squash family known by the common names fingerleaf gourd and bitter squash. It is similar to Cucurbita californica, Cucurbita cordata, Cucurbita cylindrata, and Cucurbita palmata and all these species hybridize readily. These species form the only restricted xerophyte species group in the genus Cucurbita. Each member of this species group is native to the Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico where they are relatively uncommon. Each group member is found in hot, arid regions with low rainfall. They prefer soil that is loose, gravelly, and well-drained. C. digitata is native to northern Baja California at higher elevations, northern Sonora, Mexico, southern Arizona, and southwestern New Mexico. The juvenile leaves of C. cylindrata, C. cordata, C. digitata, and C. palmata show a high degree of similarity, but their mature leaves are visibly different, as are their root structures. C. palmata and C. digitata are sympatric, with C. palmata separating the ranges of C. digitata at the juncture of Baja California, California, and Arizona. C. digitata fruits are clear green mottle that turns yellow at maturity, striped, and round.

Hamilton Paul Traub was an American botanist. He specialized in the study of Amaryllidaceae. He also did horticultural studies on beans. dr Traub was one of the founding members of the American Amaryllis Society in 1933, and for a long time the editor of its annual publication, variously called Year Book, American Amaryllis Society, Herbertia and Plant Life. Amaryllis Year Book.

<i>Cucurbita argyrosperma</i> species of plant

Cucurbita argyrosperma, also the Japanese pie pumpkin or cushaw pumpkin, and silver-seed gourd, is a species of winter squash originally from the south of Mexico. This annual herbaceous plant is cultivated in the Americas for its nutritional value: its flowers, shoots, and fruits are all harvested, but it is cultivated most of all for its seeds, which are used for sauces. It was formerly known as Cucurbita mixta.

<i>Cucurbita okeechobeensis</i> species of plant

Cucurbita okeechobeensis, the Okeechobee gourd, is a species of gourd in the Cucurbitaceae family, native to Mexico and the United States. There are two subspecies; one is endemic to Florida, primarily in the region around Lake Okeechobee, the other to the State of Veracruz in eastern Mexico. Once abundant, it has state and federal listing as an endangered species.

Cucurbita pedatifolia is a xerophyte plant species of the genus Cucurbita. It is native to Querétaro, Mexico. It has not been domesticated. While C. pedatifolia has been cross bred, results have met with limited success. It does not cross well with other species of Cucurbita. It is a close relative of Cucurbita radicans. Geographic location and genetics make it highly likely that Cucurbita scabridifolia is a naturally occurring hybrid of Cucurbita foetidissima and C. pedatifolia. It also has some mesophyte traits may represent a transitional state between the mesophytic Cucurbita and the mesophytic Cucurbita.

Cucurbita fraterna, also known as Cucurbita pepo subsp. fraterna, is a mesophyte plant species of the genus Cucurbita. It is native to Tamaulipas and Nuevo León, Mexico. It has not been domesticated. It is the progenitor and nearest relative of the domesticated species Cucurbita pepo and wild C. pepo is still found in the same areas as C. fraterna. It was formally described by Liberty Hyde Bailey in 1943, in Gentes Herbarum.

<i>Cucurbita texana</i> species of plant

Cucurbita texana, also known as Cucurbita pepo subsp. texana and Texas gourd, is a mesophyte plant species of the genus Cucurbita. It is native to Texas, primarily the southeastern region. It is found only in the wild. It is possibly a progenitor and close relative of the domesticated species Cucurbita pepo, though it and wild C. pepo are native to different areas. Cucurbita fraterna is also closely related. It was first collected 1835 by J. L. Berlandier in southern Texas. It was formally described as Tristemon texanus by George Heinrich Adolf Scheele in 1848 and transferred to the genus Cucurbita by Asa Gray in 1850.

Cucurbita scabridifolia is a plant species of the genus Cucurbita native to Mexico. It is a xerophyte and has not been domesticated. Very little is known about this species. Geographic location and genetics make it highly likely that C. scabridifolia is a naturally occurring hybrid of C. foetidissima and C. pedatifolia.

Cucurbita sororia is a plant species of the genus Cucurbita, sometimes considered to be a subspecies of Cucurbita argyrosperma, C. a. subsp. sororia. It ranges from northern Mexico to Nicaragua, mostly along the Pacific coast. This species was originally considered closely related to Cucurbita texana but C. sororia was later shown to be an ancestor of Cucurbita argyrosperma, with which it hybridizes well.

Cucurbita palmeri is a plant species of the genus Cucurbita. It is native to the Pacific coast of northwestern Mexico to Nicaragua. It is closely related to Cucurbita argyrosperma and Cucurbita sororia.

Cucurbita californica is a species of flowering plant in the squash family.

Cucurbita cordata is a species of flowering plant in the squash family. It is similar to Cucurbita californica, Cucurbita cylindrata, Cucurbita digitata, and Cucurbita palmata and all these species hybridize readily. These species form the only restricted xerophyte species group in the genus Cucurbita. Each member of this species group is native to the Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico where they are relatively uncommon. Each group member is found in hot, arid regions with low rainfall. They prefer soil that is loose, gravelly, and well-drained. C. cordata is found only in the vicinity of Bahía de los Ángeles, Baja California. Botanists Bemis and Whitaker suggest that C. cordata and C. cylindrata may be a case of sympatric speciation. The juvenile leaves of C. cylindrata, C. cordata, C. digitata, and C. palmata show a high degree of similarity, but their mature leaves are visibly different, as are their root structures. C. cordata fruits are gray green, striped, and round.

Cucurbita cylindrata is a species of flowering plant in the squash family. It is similar to Cucurbita californica, Cucurbita cordata, Cucurbita digitata, and Cucurbita palmata and all these species hybridize readily. These species form the only restricted xerophyte species group in the genus Cucurbita. Each member of this species group is native to the Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico where they are relatively uncommon. Each group member is found in hot, arid regions with low rainfall. They prefer soil that is loose, gravelly, and well-drained. C. cylindrata is found only in the middle portion of Baja California, mostly in Baja California Sur. Botanists Bemis and Whitaker suggest that C. cordata and C. cylindrata may be a case of sympatric speciation. The juvenile leaves of C. cylindrata, C. cordata, C. digitata, and C. palmata show a high degree of similarity, but their mature leaves are visibly different, as are their root structures. C. cylindrata fruits are dark green, striped, and round.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 "Inventory of the Thomas W. Whitaker Papers". Online Archive of California. University of California, Davis. Retrieved November 9, 2014.Note: Some sources erroneously list his birth year as 1905.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Dedication: Thomas W. Whitaker". North Carolina State University. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Janick, Jules (1981). "Front Matter". Horticultural Reviews. 3. Westport, CT: AVI Publishing Co. p. viviii. doi:10.1002/9781118060766.fmatter. ISBN   978-0-87055-352-3.
  4. Directory of Organization and Field Activities of the Department of Agriculture. Miscellaneous Publication. Washington, DC: United States Department of Agriculture. 1941. p. 111.
  5. "Cucurbitaceae '98". Cucurbit Genetics Cooperative. North Carolina State University. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  6. "Distinguished Fellow of the Botanical Society of America". Botanical Society of America. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  7. "Whitaker". International Plant Names Index. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  8. 1 2 Smith, Shane (2000). Greenhouse Gardener's Companion: Growing Food and Flowers in Your Greenhouse or Sunspace. Boulder, CO: Fulcrum Publishing. p. 291. ISBN   978-1-55591-450-9.
  9. 1 2 "Vegetable Breeding & Genetics". United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  10. Wang, Yi-Hong; Behera, Tuhar Kanti; Kole, Chittaranjan (2012). Genetics, Genomics and Breeding of Cucurbits. Genetics, Genomics and Breeding of Crop Plants. New York: CRC Press. p. 108. ISBN   978-1-57808-766-2.
  11. Noguiera, Douglas William; Maluf, Wilson Roberto; dos Reis Figueira, Antonia; Gomes, Luiz Antonio Augusto; Benavente, Cesar Augusto Ticona (2011). "Combining Ability of Summer-squash Lines With Different Degrees of Parthenocarpy and PRSV-W Resistance". Genetics and Molecular Biology. 34 (4): 616–623. doi:10.1590/S1415-47572011005000039. ISSN   1415-4757. PMC   3229117 . PMID   22215966.
  12. "New Vegetable Varieties Resist Diseases". Integrated Pest Management. Cornell University. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  13. IPNI.  Whitaker.