Books  General Natural History  Biography, Exploration & Travel 

Daniel Mcalpine and the Bitter Pit

Biography / Memoir
  • The book is unique – the documents explaining the reasons for McAlpine's unwanted retirement were found only in 2011
  • McAlpine's brilliance as an educator, teacher and producer of fine teaching aids and contribution to science is displayed
  • 38 illustrations in the book mostly unknown, many unseen which show his talent, his sensitivity as an artist and broad abilities

By: Douglas G Parbery(Author)

252 pages, 18 colour & 21 b/w illustrations


Hardback | Nov 2014 | #217475 | ISBN-13: 9783319095516
Availability: Usually dispatched within 1 week Details
NHBS Price: £126.00 $171/€142 approx

About this book

Daniel Mcalpine and the Bitter Pit is a biography of a scientist who pioneered the development of plant pathology in Australia in the 19th and early 20th century, and was internationally acclaimed. After 20 years as a plant pathologist, he was asked to find the cause and cure of a serious physiological disorder of apples. While the cause eluded him, and everyone else for another 60 years, he again won international gratitude for the improvements he brought to the apple industry. However because he did not find the cause, he was deemed to have failed by his political masters who were malignantly influenced by a jealous rival. The discovery in 2012-2013 of government files covering the period of the bitter pit investigation, from 1911 to 1916; reveal the extent of the unjust criticism of McAlpine while history has vindicated the management recommendations made to reduce bitter-pit losses.

The focus on bitter-pit management late in McAlpine's career also meant that those who value his memory have been less aware of the remarkable achievements of McAlpine in the time before he left Great Britain – the brilliance of his teaching and drawing skills -featured in the early teaching texts for botany and zoology (the latter with his brother) which are now accessible on-line. The objective of Daniel Mcalpine and the Bitter Pit is to demonstrate that (i) the view that McAlpine had failed in his quest was wrong and seriously unjust (ii) McAlpine achievements extend beyond plant pathology and include significant contributions to the 19th century teaching of botany and zoology, contributions which reinforce the adage – a picture is worth a 1 000 words.


1. Scotland & England - Scottish Origin - Early years - Fascination with Geology - Natural History and Academia
2. Highly Educated Non-Graduate - Proof of appointments in Edinburgh - Atlases and Academic Career - Search for Greener fields
3. Australia Felix - Establishment in Australia - Ormond College - Auld Po-Tarsh: Victorian College of Pharmacy - Research & Other Occupations
4. Vegetable Pathologist - Devastating Epiphytotics - Foundation of Australian Plant Pathology - Renowned Mycologist - McAlpine's training in Mycology - Hallmarks of Rigour and Accuracy - His Six Australian Books - Extra Mural Activities
5. Twenty Years of Plant Pathology in Australia - In McAlpine's own words - What Constitutes Plant Pathology - Its Aims and Objectives - Means Provided for Investigation and Research - Some of the Work Accomplished - Problems Awaiting Solutions - How this Study has benefited the Producer - Conclusion - A National Approach
6. International Recognition

7. Chapter Seven - Bitter Pit - History of Research into Bitter pit - Bitter Pit in Australia - The Economic Importance of Apples - An Increasing problem - 1986-1910 - A National Investigation Proposed - The Perth Conference - Ministers Respond - The Reluctant Appointee
8. The Poison Theory - Codlin Moth, Lead Arsenate and Bitter pit - Delay, Uncertainty and Objection - Penang - Investigative Journalist - The Minister and the Poison Theory - Test Committee fails Ewart and White
9. A National Investigation - Government in Australia - Appointment of McAlpine - The Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Bitter Pit
10. The First Year 1911-1912 - Establishing Starting Points - The Australian Apple Industry 1900 -1911 - Advisory Committee's First Report - The first year's accounts
11. Serious Stumbling Blocks - Ewart Corrupts Advisory Committee - Distribution of the First Progress Report
12. The Second Year's Work 1912-1913 - The Second Progress Report - Monthly Reports - Long Distance Transport and Bitter Pit - The Voyage of SS Somerset - The Second Advisory Committee Report
13. The Third Years Work 1913-1914 - Monthly Reports - The Third Progress Report - Advisory Committee Report
14. The Fourth Year of the Investigation 1914-1915 - Royal Commission - The Fourth Progress Report - The Advisory Committee's Penultimate Report - McAlpine's Concluding Letter to the Premier
15. The Fifth Year of the Investigation 1915-1916 - The Uncertainties of 1915 - 1916 - Extension into a Fifth Year - The Final Advisory Committee Report
16. Appraisal of McAlpine's Success - Physiological Disorders - Quantitative Evidence - Qualitative Evidence - National View - Qualitative Evidence - International Comment - A Century Later - Working under Duress
17. Personal Interactions - Alfred James Ewart - Ewart's Antagonism towards McAlpine - Ewart, White and McAlpine - McAlpine and the Advisory Committee - Daniel McAlpine and Charles Brittlebank

18. The Fruitless Years - Termination and Withdrawal - Forgotten Gentleman's Agreement - Attempts to Continue - 1917 - Invercliffe and Retreat into Retirement - Applied Evolution
19. Re-establishment of a Reputation - Rekindling Appreciation - The Australasian Plant Pathology Society - The Daniel McAlpine Memorial Lectures - A Man of wide Influence and Many Talents

Appendix 1- Biographical Notes
Appendix 2 - Communication between Ewart and Graham
Appendix 3 - McAlpine's dwellings in Victoria

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Douglas George Parbery was born in Bega NSW. He took his B.Sc.Ag at University of Sydney in 1958 and M.Agr.Sc(Plant Pathology) in 1961 at the University of Queensland where he also worked as a demonstrator in biology. He transferred to University of Melbourne in the Faculty of Science from 1962 until 1969. In 1970 he transferred to the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry where he was Dean for several years and retired in 1995 as Associate Professor. His specialty was Mycology and following his retirement he was appointed Senior Associate in Mycology and Plant Pathology.

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