Harry Marshall Ward and the Fungal Thread of Death is a fascinating biography that reflects the changes that occurred in both society and plant science in the late 19th century. Harry Marshall Ward's reputation has until now rested on discoveries about the transmission of plant disease that he made while studying coffee leaf disease in Ceylon. Important as these were, both biologically and in establishing his reputation as a researcher, historical perspective shows that they are much less significant than his role in establishing the pre-eminence of British botany in the early years of the 20th century and his part in the origins of physiological plant pathology. Neither of these roles has been properly recognized before now and they form the core of this biography.
Late in Queen Victoria's reign, the old science of botany was galvanized by a revolutionary doctrine: investigation by experiment. In the 1870s, a small group of young men from around the world were attracted to study in the German laboratories of Anton De Bary and Julius Sachs where they were taught to rely on their own observations rather than textbooks, and above all, to investigate by experiment. They carried away this new philosophy and revolutionized botany in their own countries. Harry Marshall Ward was one of these few young scientists.
His laboratory-based discoveries of the way pathogens use enzymes to attack plants, and the way plant cells defend themselves, are at the heart of our current understanding of infection and resistance mechanisms, and of plant breeding. Studies of the microbiology of brewing and of drinking waters diverted him from plant disease but led him to become an early advocate of applied biology. In his last years, as Professor of Botany at Cambridge University, he modernized the teaching of botany, guiding young men such as Biffen (plant breeding) and Freeman (plant pathology), who, in their turn, became world leaders in their subjects. Ward made major contributions to the affairs of the British Association and was twice President of the young British Mycological Society. He died at the early age of 52, but left a rich scientific legacy.
This fascinating book will be of interest to plant pathologists; mycologists; historians of science, agriculture, or biology; and professors/instructors of biology. The science is explained in simple language and diagrams making it accessible to biology students or anyone with an interest in plant biology.
Chapter 1: To Ceylon for Coffee
Chapter 2: Becoming a Botanist
Chapter 3: German Lessons
Chapter 4: From Industrial Manchester to Leafy Englefield Green
Chapter 5: Work Will Enable Us to Forget
Chapter 6: Ginger Beer and a Loss of Focus?
Chapter 7: Cambridge – The Fatal Challenge
Chapter 8: Legacies
Appendix: Publications of Harry Marshall Ward
" [...] an interesting biography and a good read [...] simple language so people with little scientific knowledge will understand and enjoy the story of Ward's life and the development of his researches [...] well illustrated with original photographs and simple diagrams which enable the reader to get a good feel of the times in which Ward lived."
– European Journal of Plant Pathology
" [...] readable, well-researched and illustrated [...] faithfully records the beginnings of plant pathology as a recognizable discipline [...] a sound investment for those interested in the history of plant pathology and applied mycology, which has its legacy in the modern field of biological control of weeds using fungal pathogens."
– Biocontrol News and Information
"It is refreshing, therefore, to read about someone who could make significant contributions to so many pure and applied topics and show how the experience gained in one can be used to progress understanding in another."
– Annals of Botany
"The methodical text paints a brilliant portrait of Harry Marshall Ward as a human being as well as a renowned scientist, and is highly accessible to students of botany history and lay readers alike. Highly recommended."
– Internet Bookwatch
"Meticulous biography [...] highly recommended."
– Midwest Book Review
" [...] an intriguing biography [...] "
– IPMnet News
"..well-written with many fascinating asides on the careers of those who touched Ward's life [...] illustrated with some rare and previously unpublished photographs."
" [...] one of the best books available to bridge the gap between Darwin and Mendel. The author's warm feeling for Ward's life will move his readers."
"The author of this book is to be credited for an enormous effort of library work and congratulated for a significant contribution to the history of Plant Pathology, which I enjoyed reading very much. It can be highly recommended to every Plant Pathologist with historical interest."
– Journal of Phytopathology