In Memoriam

Harlan P. Banks, 1913 - 1998

Harlan Parker Banks, Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor Emeritus in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, died on Sunday, November 22, 1998, at his retirement home in New Hampshire after a short illness.

Professor Banks was born on September 1, 1913, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and graduated in 1930 from Classical High School in nearby Lynn. He received his B.S. in 1934 from Dartmouth College where he spent three further years as Instructor in Botany and held a Cramer Fellowship for Graduate Study. A Cornellian there, Professor Carl L. Wilson, interested him in plant anatomy and morphology and this expanded into the study of fossil plants. Most of his subsequent research was done in paleobotany, commencing with a doctoral dissertation at Cornell under the tutelage of the late Professor Loren C. Petry.

From 1940 he taught at Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, where he became Associate Professor of Botany before leaving in 1947 for a similar position at the University of Minnesota. Upon retirement of the late Arthur J. Eames in 1949,Banks returned to Cornell as Associate Professor of Botany, Professor (1950-1977), and as Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor (1977), retiring in 1978. During this period he also served as head of the Department of Botany, 1950-1961, and upon formation of the Division of Biological Sciences, was associated with the Section of Genetics, Development, and Physiology.

Professor Banks and most of his 34 graduate students literally and figuratively quarried the rich Devonian fossil deposits of early land plants in New York for notable contributions to our understanding of the origin, structure, and evolution of these plants. Authorship or joint authorship of over 150 scientific papers, reviews, films, and one book on paleobotany Evolution and Plants of the Past led to his international recognition as a major authority on the earliest land plants. A effervescent lecturer, he was invited to lecture at some 70 universities and colleges in the continental United States and Puerto Rico, at 20 Universities or scholarly societies in Europe, Asia, and Australia, as well as to numerous science clubs, museums, research institutions, and other departments within Cornell. He also was the paleobotany Lecturer at the Centennial Celebration of the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University in1966, held The David French Lectureship, Pomona College in 1971, was guest lecturer at the Third International Gondwana Conference, Canberra, Australia, 1973, and the W.W. Rubey Lecturer at U.C.L.A., 1976. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Dartmouth College in 1984, and in 1987 he was elected as one of 50 foreign members of the Linnean Society of London and received the Paleontological Society's U.S. gold medal, awarded to a paleobotanist for the first time since 1970.

Despite many obligations, and always with good humor, he served as minor advisor to over 25 graduate students a year. In addition to his major graduate students, he averaged a dozen undergraduate advisees a year, and he kept an open door to countless other students and colleagues who sought his advice.

In the tradition of distinguished teaching in botany at Cornell, Harlan Banks was recognized within and without the university as not only an exceedingly popular but also as a truly great teacher in his generation. This was particularly so in the introductory courses at Cornell, although he also taught upper-level courses and was associated with various short courses in summer institutions or commissions on education sponsored by the Botanical Society of America, the National Science Foundation, and American Institute of Biological Sciences. In 1961, he received the Certificate of Merit from Seniors in the College of Agriculture, and in 1975 the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Further honors for teaching and research came the form of selection by the Faculty of the University of Liege to be a Fulbright Research Scholar in Belgium in 1957-1958, election as Corresponding Member, Société Géologique de Belgique in 1959, as John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow with tenure at the University of Liege and at Cambridge University in 1963-1964, as Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge University in 1968, and as Honorary Vice President, XII International Botanical Congress, Leningrad, in 1975.

In the same year he was awarded a Certificate of Merit by the Botanical Society of America, which he had served as member of the Editorial Board, Secretary Pro-tem (1952-1953), Treasurer (1964-1967), Vice President (1968), and President (1969). He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and he also served in various capacities with the International Organization of Paleobotany (Vice President, 1964-1969; President 1969-1975), Paleontological Society (Councilor-at-Large, 1974) and was a member of the Paleontological Association, International Society of Plant Morphologists, International Association for Plant Taxonomy, Torrey Botanical Club, Paleontological Research Institution, Commission Internationale Microflore Paleozoique, Associacion Latinamericana de Paleobotanica y Palinologia, Sigma Xi (President, Cornell Chapter 1954-1956), Beta Beta Beta, Gamma Alpha, and Ho-Nun-De-Kah (Honorary Member 1959). He was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1980, and, from 1977-1983, he served on the United States National Committee for the International Union of Biological Sciences sponsored by the National Academy of Science. Continuing his activities after he retired, he published 11 papers during the 1990s, and in December, 1997, he delivered the monthly lecture at the New England Botanical Club in Cambridge.

He is survived by his wife, Rosamund L. (Kit) Shurtleff Banks, and a daughter, Jane Angstrom. Funeral arrangements will be private. Donations in Professor Bank's memory may be made to Cornell Plantations.

- Natalie Uhl, John Kingsbury, and Karl J. Niklas

Tamiji Inoue, 1947-1997

Professor Tamiji Inoue was born on the island of Awajishima in Japan's inland sea and grew up in Japan's post Second World War rebuilding phase. For his undergraduate studies he took Entomology at Kyoto University's Faculty of Agriculture and having graduated he spent six months on an expedition to Chile and Patagonia, following Darwin's footsteps. His doctorate research, again at Kyoto University, was on Mantis behavior. It was during his post doctoral work that he switched to studying pollination biology through work that originally began as behavioral studies of stingless bees in Indonesia. In 1991 he was appointed a Chair at the recently opened Center for Ecological Research at Kyoto University. Almost immediately he launched the Canopy Biology Program in Lambir Hills National Park which involved the building of two towers and 300 m of canopy walkway. More recently he began working on a second project at Kuba National Park near Kuching with the intention of building a canopy crane. In parallel with his research work he was very active in promoting cooperative studies and was largely responsible for establishing the Diversitas in Western Pacific and Asia (DIWPA) initiative. He was also a great populariser of science, which he often combined this with his passion for photography, and contributed many articles, books and school texts on ecology and environmental topics. It was his photograph of beetles pollinating an aroid that was show on the cover of the October issue. In 1997 Tamiji Inoue was killed in a plane crash in Lambir Hills National Park.

- Rhett D. Harrison

Loo Shih wei, 1907-1998

With plant tissue culture playing a major role in bioengineering and micropropagation being an important industry, it is hard for many (especially younger) plant scientists to imagine a time when popping an explant into a test tube and making it grow was not routine. A number of investigators contributed to the development of plant tissue culture techniques. Most are well known in the US and the West. Unfortunately one of the most important pioneers in the field, Professor Loo Shih wei (western style, Shih wei Loo; for photographs and sample signature see Arditti, 1992; Arditti and Krikorian, 1996) did not receive the international recognition he so richly deserved due to political whirlwinds which engulfed him for a time. I, as his friend, decided to write this obituary in the hope of calling attention to Prof. Loo pioneering work even if posthumously.

Shih wei was born on 13 November 1907 in Xiangtan county, Hunan province. He graduated from the biology department of Zhong Shan University in Guangzou in 1931. From 1932 until 1943 he worked at Zhang Shan (Guangzhou), Ji Nan (Shanghai), Central (Nanjing), Tsinghua (Kunming) and Peking universities, the Xi Kang Scientific Investigations Group, and the Guandong Arts and Science College.

In 1943, Loo came to the US to become a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena. He earned his Ph.D. in two years and in 1945 became a research associate at the Botany Department of Columbia University in New York. After one year there, Loo moved to the Chemistry Department of the University, where he stayed until 1947. At that point Loo could have probably remained in the US Had he done that, Loo would have become a major and well known figure in American and international plant science. However, he did not stay. The motherland called and Loo's love for his country made him return to China in 1947.

His first position in China was as Professor at Peking University. He stayed there until 1953 and moved to the famed Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology (ISP) where he remained until the end of his life. He suffered a lot during the tumult of the cultural revolution and was prevented from working for some years. When it was all over, Loo returned to the laboratory and continued his research as if nothing happened. He also visited his old haunts in California (where he and I met in 1986 and remained friends in person during my visit to China in 1987 and through correspondence until his death) and other parts of the US. It was clear that the hardships of the cultural revolution took a physical toll of the man, but his mind, spirit, scientific acumen, and great charisma were unaffected and undiminished. He initiated new research programs and trained many graduate students.

During the 1930's, Prof. Loo worked on root culture in vitro. At Caltech he cultured explants of Asparagus officinalis and Cuscuta campensis. While doing so, he discovered that a solution solidified with agar was better as a culture medium than a liquid. He also noted that excised stem tips had unlimited growth potential (both findings were seminal and published in 1945; for a review see Arditti and Krikorian, 1996).The latter foreshadowed micropropagation, but unfortunately Prof. Loo is seldom given credit in the West for his suggestions. His dodder cultures produced flowers in vitro. This may well be the first report ever of flowering in vitro by an explant-derived plantlet.

In China, Prof. Loo traveled to where there was a need to train local people in tissue culture methods. One of his great successes was in Guangxi, South China where one micropropagation facility produces up to one million sugar cane plantlets a year. Other facilities he guided propagate forest trees, rare species and crop plant and conserve endangered species.

Prof. Loo has been described as one of the founders of Chinese plant tissue culture. That he may be, but even more importantly, Prof. Loo is one of the most notable founders of the entire science and practice of plant tissue and micropropagation.

Loo Shih wei lived past the age of 90 (on 24 September 1998). He contributed to his chosen field until the very end. His passing removed a major scientific figure in the plant science from the scene and a remarkable human being from the world. I know him personally and mourn his passing. Plant tissue culture workers and micropropagation practitioners who did not know him may wish to reflect about this remarkable scientist and human being while preparing the next batch of agar-solidified medium.

- Joseph Arditti, Department of Developmental and Cell Biology, University of California, Irvine, CA, US

Return to: | Table of Contents || Previous Page || Next Page || Plant Science Bulletin Index |