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A History of Plant Pathology in Virginia: Introduction

On August 20, 1926, Erwin F. Smith, the pioneer plant bacteriologist, addressed the International Congress of Plant Sciences at Ithaca, New York, under the title, "Fifty Years of Pathology." Strict adherence to the title would include an era back to 1876. At that time, Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College was four years old and had just graduated its first students. The Agricultural Experiment Station, was to be created by an act of the Virginia General Assembly on March 1, 1886 but was not organized until 1888. Smith's opening statement could be made today with as much veracity as it reflected in 1926:

"In many ways the last 50 years is a remarkable period in the history of the world. Among its striking characteristics, the most impressive perhaps have been the enormous advances in scientific discovery. This period has seen an entire change in our views as to the constitution of matter, the development of living things, and the extent of the cosmos. Outward in various directions the visible universe has been extended thousands of light years, downward it has been extended into the minutest subdivisions of matter far beyond the "atoms" of the old Greeks, or the wildest dreams of Victorian physicists and chemists. In pathology the advances have been no less wonderful."

For the period 1872 to 1888, there was no Plant Pathology at Va. A. & M., and after 1891 until 1908, it was as taught and studied by mycologists. Plant Pathology in Virginia had its start soon after William B. Alwood was appointed Vice-Director of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station in 1888. He was also designated Horticulturist and Entomologist. In 1891, Alwood was appointed Professor and Head of Horticulture, Entomology, and Mycology, whereupon he was for the first time assigned teaching duties in these three disciplines. A vignette of agriculture as Alwood took up the reins might be helpful.

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Last Modified on: Thursday, 21-Oct-2004 12:54:00 EDT