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Historical Section

Barkley, Grant M. [1], Fike, Jennifer A. [2].

Joseph C. Arthur [1850-1942]: First Proof of Bacteria as the Cause of Plant Disease.

Joseph C. Arthur, during his tenure as the first Station Botanist at the NY Agricultural Experiment Station, Geneva, NY, was the first experimentalist to offer conclusive and convincing proof of a bacterium as the cause of a specific plant disease. Arthur, in 1884, began work on a number of orchard diseases including "pear blight" or "fire blight". Working from a suggestion made by Burrill in 1883, that a new species of Micrococcus [M. amylovorus] was associated with pear blight. Arthur produced a series of experiments which took Burrill's suggestion and observation to a final conclusive proof. Arthur, a meticulous researcher, kept careful notes of his experiments in two series of notebooks, one titled, "Daily Notes", the other his "Laboratory Notebooks". In 1884, he recorded a series of inoculations made to trees of Flemish Beauty pear. Experiment 84, was an inoculation made on 26 July 1884, from an infusion of blight of apple secured from "Mr. Atwood's nurseries". The following year, Arthur used a "very small fragment of wood taken from the inner portion of a diseased limb" from his Experiment 84, to produce inoculum employed in several critical experiments. Arthur, using the last dilution in a series of six serial transfers with sterilized corn meal, was successful in producing infection in the ripe Bartlett pear. He further demonstrated using filtration, that filtrate was not the cause of the disease. This work was published in the Botanical Gazette for Sept.-Oct. 1885, and was acknowledged as the first convincing and established proof that bacteria could be the source of plant disease. In 1887, Arthur published comprehensive criteria which could be used generally to prove that suspected bacteria as the cause of a plant disease. His criteria, used in 1885, were produced simultaneously with, but independent from the publication of Koch's Postulates.


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1 - Kent State University, Biological Sciences, 4314 Mahoning Avenue, Warren, Ohio, 44483, United States
2 - Kent State University, English, 330 University Drive NE, New Philadelphia, Ohio, 44663, United States

Keywords:
Joseph C Arthur
pear blight
Koch's Postulates
bacteria
plant disease.

Presentation Type: Poster
Session: 33-58
Location: Salon C, D & E - Gov Ballroom/Hilton
Date: Tuesday, August 16th, 2005
Time: 12:30 PM
Abstract ID:332


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