[BEN-L]BEN # 423

Adolf Ceska aceska at telus.net
Tue, 16 Mar 2010 14:09:54 -0700

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No. 423                              March 16, 2010
aceska@telus.net                     Victoria, B.C.
 Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2

From: Elizabeth.Easton@gov.bc.ca 

The URL for Botany BC 2010 is: http://www.members.shaw.ca/botanybc/ 

ARMEN L. TAKHTAJAN (1910-2009)
From: Nancy R. Morin e-mail: Nancy.Morin@nau.edu [Originally published in
the _FNA Newsletter_ 23: 23-24.]

Armen Leonovich Takhtajan, one of the greatest botanists of our time, passed
away on November 13, 2009, at the age of 99.  He was born June 10, 1910, in
Shusha, Nagorno-Karabakh, in the Southern Caucasus.  He had just published
his revised classification, _Flowering Plants_ (Springer, 2009), in which he
synthesized his own vast knowledge of plant evolution acquired over 60 years
of study and much of the phylogenetic information that had been published in
recent years by others.  He graduated from the Institute of Subtropical
Cultivation in Tbilisi, Georgia in 1932, received his Ph.D. in Leningrad in
1938, and his Dr. Sci. at Yerevan State University in 1943.  He was on staff
at various institutions in Yerevan until 1949 when he joined the faculty at
Leningrad State University (1949 to 1960), after which he joined the staff
of the Komarov Botanical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, where
he was director from 1976 to 1986.  Despite great personal and professional
risk, he was a strong opponent of the theories of T. D. Lysenko, who had the
support of Stalin and Krushchev in banning all teaching of genetics from the
1930s to the 1960s.  He was one of the few scientists who travelled
internationally during Soviet times and was an important conduit in bringing
the ideas of current research in the west to his colleagues in Russia.  With
his wife Alice, he spent many happy and productive months as a guest
researcher at Missouri Botanical Garden, the New York Botanical Garden (with
his great friend Arthur Cronquist), and the National Tropical Botanical
Garden in Kauai working on his publications.  They were an inspiration and a
delight to the staff and students at those institutions.

He was an Academician of the Armenian Academy of Sciences and of the Russian
Academy of Sciences, and a foreign associate of the U.S. National Academy of
Sciences, as well as of many other countries.  He wrote 20 books and more
than 300 scientific papers, many of which were ground-breaking, from his
1943 paper _Correlations of Ontogenesis and Phylogenesis in Higher Plants_,
in which he unveiled his theories on macroevolution as a result of changes
in developmental timing, through to his books _Floristic Regions of the
World and Diversity and Classification of Flowering Plants_.

In his foreword to _Flowering Plants_, Peter Raven wrote:  "Professor Armen
Takhtajan, a giant among botanists, has spent a lifetime in the service of
his science and of humanity.  As a thoroughgoing internationalist, he
promoted close relationships between botanists and people of all nations
through the most difficult times imaginable, and succeeded with his strong
and persistent personal warmth.  He also has stood for excellent modern
science throughout this life and taught hundreds of students to appreciate
the highest values of civilization whatever their particular pursuits or
views, or the problems they encountered."

Armen Takhtajan was also an artist and a philosopher.  Especially after he
retired, he enjoyed staying in his country house and painting.  He published
(in Russian) a book on systems in general, including organismal systems and
political systems.

Professor Takhtajan was predeceased by Alice, his wife of 58 years, in 2005;
he is survived by his sons Leon and Souren, daughter Lena and many
grandchildren.  Funeral rites were held at the Komarov Botanical Institute
November 19, 2009.
[Editorial note:   Following Prof. Takhtajan's study visit  to the New York
Botanical Garden, The New York Times published an excellent article. I asked
the NY Times for permission to post it in BEN, but the fee for doing that
would annihilate the entire BEN operating budget. I recommend that you
access this article directly from the New York Times archives:
William K. Stevens. Scientist at Work: Armen Takhtajan; Botanist Plans
Survey of World's Flowers // The New York Times. - April 6, 1993
botanist-plans-survey-of-world-s-flowers.html?pagewanted=1 ]

From: Dr. Barry Mendel Cohen, 239 Hibiscus Court, Brownsville, TX 78520
Kingsbury, Noel. 2009.  _Hybrid: The History and Science of Plant Breeding._
University Of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.  512 p. ISBN-13: 978-0226437040
[hard cover] Price: US$ 35.00
Noel Kingsbury, the author of _Hybrid_,  is a prolific British writer on
landscape and kitchen gardening. For him this has become an ever more
serious endeavour, and hence the current book. Along with his colleague, Tim
Richardson, he has chaired a monthly series of lectures, the _Vista
Lectures_, for London's Museum of Garden History, some of which are
available via Mr. Kingsbury's Website in podcast form or via his host, the
Gardens Illustrated Magazine. These forums became ever more social and
political in content, leading Mr. Kingsbury to undertake this current
project. It has a wide scope and he is extraordinarily successful in
covering it.
 Rarely do book jacket authors truly capture the essence of the book they
describe, but here the anonymous editor aptly remarks, "Starting his story
at the birth of agriculture, Kingsbury traces the history of human attempts
to make plants more reliable, productive, and nutritious-a story that owes
as much to accident and error as to innovation and experiment. Drawing on
historical and scientific accounts, as well as a rich trove of anecdotes,
Kingsbury shows how scientists, amateur breeders, and countless anonymous
farmers and gardeners slowly caused the evolutionary pressures of nature to
be supplanted by those of human needs... . He reminds us that contemporary
controversies over the Green Revolution and genetically modified crops are
not new; plant breeding has always had a political dimension."
The author begins with pre-agricultural history and then the historical
origins of agriculture. He is particularly strong in this area, following N.
I. Vavilov's theory on the centers of origin of cultivated plants as
modified by Dr. Jack R. Harlan.  He also includes some recent updating of
the theories by the British scholars, T. Williams, J. Holden and J. Peacock
based on _Genes, Crops, and the Environment_.  However, I am mystified why
Harlan's _Crops and Man_(1992) is cited rather than the _Living Fields_ by
Harlan from 1995. My speculation is that Kingsbury preferred a slightly more
technical treatment of the subject in this case.
Throughout the book,  Kingsbury discuses the origin and development of corn
(maize). According to Kingsbury, corn "bears less resemblance to its native
ancestors than any other edible plant... ."  He recounts the historical
debates between the corn expert Dr. Paul Mangelsdorf and the future
University of Chicago president (1961-68) Dr. George Beadle. Eventually Dr.
Beadle's theory was to prevail that corn was indeed a descendent of teosinte
rather than a "tripartite" derivation as Dr. Mangelsdorf suggested. Yet this
was true scientific debate and a dignified discussion of scientific issues,
and surely dissimilar to the heated Lysenko controversy, especially the part
dealing with hybrid corn.

With Lysenko on the ascent in December, 1936, the Soviet Union held the
first of three major debates on the nature of genetics. During this first
debate Vavilov pointed out that some 5% of corn in the United States was
already sown with F1 hybrid corn that had 15-20% higher yield than the
parent varieties.  Lysenko replied that this meant that 95% were not and
urged the Soviet Union to continue to rely on non-hybrid corn source.
Vavilov was speaking for the future: within thirty year nearly all corn in
North America was sown with F1 hybrid stock, even though the farmers had to
buy fresh seed every year. The issue was similar to the Green Revolution and
modern genetically modified foods.

Kingsbury revisits these issues when discussing Norman Borlaug's Green
Revolution and the current debates over genetically modified foods.  He
weighs the values of "home grown agriculture" against scientific production.
He is critical of too strict control by corporate and government
agriculture, but he is also wary of a romantic agriculture that precludes
the use of scientific techniques. He is very concerned that business and
corporate agriculture has overtaken public research into agriculture.
Kingsbury has provided a splendid overview of plant breeding history, and
one that appeals for the best and wisest use of agriculture by all sectors
of society.


Takhtajan, Armen. 2009. _Flowering Plants_ 2nd Ed. Springer,
Berlin/Heidelberg/  ISBN 978-1-4020-9608-2 [Hardcover]  720 p. Price:
Bookseller: http://www.koeltz.com

Originally published by Columbia University Press, 1999, entitled _Diversity
and Classification of Flowering Plants_, the current edition is
revised and expanded.
This book culminates almost sixty years of Armen Takhtajan's research of the
origin and classification of the flowering plants. It presents a
continuation of Dr. Takhtajan's earlier publications including _Systema
Magnoliophytorum_ (1987), (in Russian), and _Diversity and Classification of
Flowering Plants_ (1997), (in English). In his latest book, the author
presents a concise and significantly revised system of plant classification
(`Takhtajan system') based on the most recent studies in plant morphology,
embryology, phytochemistry, cytology, molecular biology and palynology.
Flowering plants are divided into two classes: class Magnoliopsida (or
Dicotyledons) includes 8 subclasses, 126 orders, c. 440 families, almost
10,500 genera, and no less than 195,000 species; and class Liliopsida (or
Monocotyledons) includes 4 subclasses, 31 orders, 120 families, more than
3,000 genera, and about 65,000 species. This book contains a detailed
description of plant orders, and descriptive keys to plant families
providing characteristic features of the families and their differences.

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