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50s and 60s

history_8George L. McNew became the second managing director in 1949, when Crocker retired. A plant pathologist, McNew did distinguished research concerning the chemical processes responsible for disease in plants. He was an able administrator who improved salaries and pensions at the institute, hired young researchers to join the aging staff, purchased modern equipment, and for the first time actively sought government (rather than just industrial) sponsorship for research.

Leonard H. Weinstein, Jay S. Jacobson, Delbert C. McCune, David C. MacLean, Richard H. Mandl, and, later, John A. Laurence carried on the air pollution research begun by Crocker, Zimmerman, and Hitchcock. In the 1960s they undertook a very large program in this field that is still ongoing. Their research has encompassed many areas, including the effects of pollutants on the biochemistry, physiology, growth, and yield of plants and the development of air-monitoring methods and air-quality standards for numerous state agencies in the United States and several foreign countries.

In 1978, Weinstein was recognized for his many years of leadership by being nominated as the institute’s first named scientist, the William B. Thompson Scientist. For more than two decades he directed research on the effects of fluoride on plants that was the foundation for the development of the largest scientific group dedicated to studying the effects of air pollution on crops and trees in the nation and perhaps the world. He continues to help industries comply with air-quality standards around the world. Weinstein served on the institute’s Board of Directors from 1973 to 1997, when he became an emeritus director.

By 1967 the pollution of the Hudson River had become of great concern to conservationists. Edward H. Buckley, a researcher in Hudson River ecology for more than twenty years, was the project leader of the institute’s Estuarine Study Group, which compiled information on the biological status of the river and published it in 1977 in An Atlas of the Biologic Resources of the Hudson Estuary. Samuel S. Ristich and David L. Sirois were staff scientists on the project. This publication, edited by Weinstein, became an international resource on estuarine systems.


Richard C. Staples joined the institute in 1952. He did pioneering work on the mechanisms that induce rust fungi to infect the leaves of host plants. He was part of an earlier team that described the first self-inhibitors of germination in rust spores. He later demonstrated that many but not all rust fungi can sense and respond precisely to the ridges of the stomatal guard cells through which they enter their hosts. During his career, Staples received the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s Senior U.S. Scientist Award and the Ruth Allen Award of the American Phytopathological Society (APS) and was elected a Fellow of the APS. In 1987 he was named the George L. McNew Scientist. He retired in 1991 and continues collaborative research with scientists at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station.

Zohara Yaniv came to BTI in 1967 to work with Staples as a postdoctoral research fellow. To gain a better understanding of the mechanism of obligate parasitism, Yaniv and Staples studied the ribosomal activities in uredospores of the bean rust fungus and their role in spore germination and senescence. For ten summers, Yaniv worked as an instructor—and later the director—in BTI’s NSF Student Science Training Program. She left the institute in 1978 when it moved to Ithaca.

Projects to find ways to control bark beetles that were killing pine trees in western and southern forests were begun. To support this work, the institute acquired acreage in Grass Valley, California, and Beaumont, Texas. Jean Pierre Vité joined the staff in 1957 to direct research at the Grass Valley Forestry Laboratory. Beginning in 1963, Vité also directed the Beaumont Forest Laboratory. J. Alan Renwick and Patrick R. Hughes, then graduate students, joined Vité’s team. Together they discovered that male and female beetles (depending on the species) give off pheromones, chemicals that attract beetles of the other sex. The researchers used this knowledge to develop a form of nontoxic control that was produced commercially and is still in use. Renwick continued his work in chemical ecology, and his research in taste modification in crop-eating insects may lead to control measures that will protect crops by changing insects’ food preferences. Hughes studied insect viruses with a view to developing a nontoxic pesticide that will kill crop-eating insects. In the course of his work, he has developed an efficient, inexpensive system for rearing insect larvae at high density that may be of value in pharmaceutical production.

Karl Maramorosch joined BTI in 1961. He is internationally known for his research in the transmission of plant viruses and mycoplasma-like agents by insects. In addition, he was an early pioneer in invertebrate cell culture. He won many awards, including the Wolf Prize for Agriculture in Israel, edited many volumes, and fostered many young scientists. In 1998, at the age of eighty-one, he received an Honoree Award from the Society for Invertebrate Pathology in Sapporo, Japan.

Robert R. Granados, the Charles E. Palm Scientist, started at the institute in 1964. He was influenced to come to BTI by the research of Louis Kunkel and Karl Maramorosch. Granados established novel insect cell-culture lines that are in common use for recombinant protein production worldwide. He made important contributions to our knowledge of insect viruses and the molecular biology of the insect midgut. This work involved identifying new gene products for use in developing insect-tolerant transgenic plants.

Jun Mitsuhashi and Eishiro Shikata did outstanding work in the 1960s. Mitsuhashi collaborated with Maramorosch in research in tissue cultures of insect carriers of plant diseases. Shikata became well known for his early research on pea enation mosaic, a disease of pea plants, and for his studies of plant viruses and their insect vectors, especially those associated with plant wound tumors.


Donald W. Roberts joined the institute in the 1960s. Roberts’s research on fungal diseases of insects worldwide included establishing new insect pathology teams in Brazil and the Philippines. In 1980 Roberts organized the Insect Pathology Resource Center, which included scientists from the USDA, Cornell, the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, and the institute. The center supported training for national and international scientists, maintained a repository of insect pathogens, and performed basic and applied research. In 1996 Roberts became the Roy A. Young Scientist.

Also in the 1960s, H. Alan Wood began his research on the physical and biological properties of plant and fungal viruses and then moved into the area of insect virology. His research has played an important role in the study of the basic biology and molecular genetics of insect viruses and in the designing and field testing of insect virus pesticides. On August 9, 1989, in Geneva, New York, he conducted the first field release in the United States of a genetically engineered virus. In the 1990s Wood researched methods to optimize the production of pharmaceutical proteins with insect viruses and to define the attachment of sugars to proteins by insects.

Vlado Macko joined the staff in 1969. He and his colleagues discovered the chemical nature of host-specific toxins including victorin, HS toxin, and peritoxin. The work on plant disease models in which toxins play a central role led to the discovery of protectants and latent toxins and to the finding of victorin binding protein and its location in mitochondria and guard cells. He also characterized the chemical nature of self-inhibitors of spore germination in plant pathogenic fungi. Macko received the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s Senior U.S. Scientist Award.

Dewayne C. Torgeson began his professional career at the institute in 1952 as a plant pathologist, working on an industrial project related to discovery and development of pesticides. Torgeson served as program director of the Bioregulant Chemicals Program from 1963 to 1985, as corporate secretary from 1973 to 1991, and as a member of the Board of Directors from 1978 to 1996, when he became an emeritus director.