Research in Plant Biology began in 1888 with the appointment of Botanist Michael Gerald McCarthy by the North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station. Academic instruction started when the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, the forerunner of NC State University, opened its doors in 1889. Wilbur Fiske Massey, one of the five founding faculty members, was a professor of horticulture, arboriculture, and botany, and offered courses in anatomy, physiology, classification, plant pathology, and other subjects. In 1896, Primrose Hall, the third academic building built on campus was devoted exclusively to the laboratory and greenhouse work led by Dr. Massey.
Over the past 125+ years, NCSU has evolved from a small technical college into a major research university. During this development, research and instruction in botany were distinct and continuous activities. From time to time, various disciplines were split off from botany and given separate departmental organizations; these included horticulture, plant pathology, microbiology, and biochemistry.
Research in the early years emphasized basic plant pathology. Later, important work was done in plant community ecology and plant physiology. Over the last 75 years most aspects of modern botany have been pursued, including systematic research in the various fields.
Academic instruction at first emphasized providing a foundation in basic botany for undergraduate students in applied areas of plant science and technology. From the late 1940’s on, an Undergraduate Curriculum in Botany has been available. Graduate instruction began early, with the first M. S. degree in Botany being earned in 1910 and the first Ph.D. degree in 1936.
The Beginning – 1877
The North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station was established, the second in the nation. Located in a chemistry laboratory at the University in Chapel Hill, it was primarily a facility for the testing of fertilizers. The first botanical work was the testing of the germination of seeds by George Warnecke.
1881- The experiment station moved to the Agriculture Building in Raleigh. Botanical work was extended to include identification and study of forage grasses.
1885 -The experiment station acquired its first experimental farm land, a tract bounded by the then state fair grounds and the present Hillsborough Street, Brooks Avenue, and Clark Avenue. Field studies of various grasses were established.
1888- After passage of the Hatch Act in 1887, which provided federal funds to state experiment stations, botanical work was expanded by the employment of Michael Gerald McCarthy as the first botanist. McCarthy had previously collected plant specimens for the station.
1889 -Established by law in 1887, the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts opened. One of the first five faculty members was Wilbur Fisk Massey, Professor of Horticulture, Arboriculture, and Plant Biology, and Horticulturist of the experiment station. Courses he offered included morphology, anatomy, physiology, classification, cryptogamic botany, histology, plant pathology, and paleobotany. Plant Biology, along with all other parts of the college, was housed in one building, now Holladay Hall.
1889- McCarthy published the first of a number of bulletins on the testing of seeds.
1890-McCarthy published the first of several bulletins on grasses.
1890 -After passage of the federal Second Morrill Act, Massey taught courses to African-American students at Shaw University.
1891- McCarthy published the first of a number of bulletins on plant diseases; his was the first work in plant pathology at the experiment station.
1892- Massey published a botanical paper on the Sabal palmetto.
1894- Massey served as chairman of the college committee to oversee graduate (master’s degree) work.
1895- McCarthy played a key role in establishing one of the earliest cooperative research arrangements. For the experimental study of fruits and other plants, land was obtained at Southern Pines. The North Carolina Horticultural Society managed the operation, the experiment station provided analyses and other services, and a fertilizer company (the German Kali Works) paid the expenses.
1895 -Massey published a special bulletin in both English and French to assist the Waldensians of Valdese, members of a religious sect who had immigrated to North Carolina from Europe.
1896- Massey’s activities in botany and horticulture exclusively occupied newly- built Primrose Hall, which included five attached greenhouses.
1897- McCarthy’s work was instrumental in the establishment of a national seed testing standard by the Association of American Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations.
1897- With political upheaval in the state following the election of 1896, McCarthy was summarily dismissed. Botanical work at the experiment station was placed under the direction of Massey, with a new assistant botanist, Charles Walter Hyams. Seed testing was discontinued, as was the cooperative research at Southern Pines.
1898- Hyams published a bulletin on medicinal plants of North Carolina.
1899- After collecting specimens widely, Hyams published a bulletin on the flora of North Carolina.
1900- Hyams published a bulletin on edible mushrooms of North Carolina.
1900- For the first time, botany courses were listed separately from horticulture in the college catalog. They included morphology, anatomy, physiology, and systematics.
1901- Massey resigned his professorship at the college, but remained as horticulturist of the experiment station. Hyams was dismissed as assistant botanist. Dr. Frank Lincoln Stevens, a plant pathologist, was appointed instructor in biology, the first college faculty member to hold the Ph.D. degree.
1902- Stevens became Professor of Biology, later Professor of Botany and Vegetable Pathology, in the college and Biologist of the experiment station. He expanded experimental work in plant pathology and soil microbiology, which continued during his tenure. For the first time, courses in plant ecology and economic botany were offered.
1900’s- Assistants or instructors under Stevens during this period, all plant pathologists or bacteriologists, were Charles Wigg Martin, James Clarence Temple, John Galentine Hall, Thomas Dotterer Eason, Percy Leigh Gainey, Bascombe Britt Higgins, Warren Carney Norton, Guy Wilson West, and Thomas Barnes Stancel.
1902- Adeline (Mrs. Frank L.) Stevens served as instructor in biology, the first female faculty member at the college.
1903- Stevens initiated research on a newly discovered plant disease, the Granville wilt of tobacco. This program was extended at the experiment station until 1918.
1905- Botany became housed in Agricultural Hall, now Patterson Hall.
1910- Stevens and Hall published an important textbook of plant pathology, Diseases of Economic Plants.
1912- Stevens resigned. He was succeeded as Professor of Botany and Vegetable Pathology by Harry Rascoe Fulton, a plant pathologist, who continued the major investigations begun by Stevens.
1910’s- Assistants or instructors under Fulton during this period, all plant pathologists or bacteriologists, were Warren Carney Norton, Duane B. Rosenkrans, J. R. Winston, Everett Hanson Cooper, Harry Curtis Young, and Richard Oliver Cromwell. Stephen Cole Bruner, a special agent of the Bureau of Plant Industry, was also assigned for cooperative work in plant pathology.
1916- Fulton resigned. He was succeeded as Professor of Botany and Plant Pathology by Dr. Frederick Adolphus Wolf, a mycologist and plant pathologist. During his tenure investigations were carried out on Granville wilt, wildfire of tobacco, trembles of livestock, clover stem rust, soybean diseases, seed treatments, dewberry anthracnose, leafscorch of strawberry, and bacterial plant pathogens. Courses in mycology, bacteriology, and plant physiology were emphasized.
1910’s- Assistants or instructors under Wolf, all plant pathologists or bacteriologists, were Everett Hanson Cooper, Richard Oliver Cromwell, Samuel George Lehman, and Donald Folsom.
1917- The name of the institution was changed to North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering.
1917- The first honorary doctoral degree given by the college was conferred on Massey.
1919- Wolf gave up all college teaching but remained with the experiment station. Dr. Bertram Whittier Wells, a specialist on insect galls of plants, became Professor of Botany and head of the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology. He was joined on the faculty by Ivan Vaughan Detweiler Shunk. Courses taught by Wells and Shunk included general botany, plant physiology, agricultural bacteriology, systematic botany, and poisonous plants.
1920- Wells encountered the Big Savannah, a vegetational entity near Burgaw, and was stimulated by it to change his research interest to plant community ecology.
1921- Alexander Camboell Martin joined the faculty as instructor, later assistant professor. He resigned in 1926 and later became an authority on identification of seeds in the stomachs of wild animals.
1922- Wells and zoologist Zeno Payne Metcalf engaged in a widely publicized public debate on evolution with William Riley, an anti-evolutionist.
1923- Schools were established within the college. Botany became part of both the School of Agriculture and the School of General Science, later the School of Science and Business. In the latter school the departments of botany and zoology jointly offered the first undergraduate curriculum in biology.
1924- The first MS. degree in Botany other than plant pathology or bacteriology was awarded to Alexander Camboell Martin for a study of a plant gall.
1924- Wells published a survey of the major plant communities of North Carolina. He subsequently pursued numerous investigations of coastal-plain, old-field, mountain-bald, and salt-spray communities. Shunk collaborated in a number of these studies as well as conducting his own microbiological research.
1924- Dr. Louis Jerome Pessin, a plant physiologist, was added to the faculty. He was dismissed and replaced in 1925 by Dr. Donald Benton Anderson, who later conducted research and published numerous papers on plant cell wall structure, water relations, and chemical sucker control in tobacco.
1925- Wells was one of the leaders in the fight against anti-evolution legislation in the general assembly. The controversy continued for another two years.
1925- The first undergraduate degree in biology earned by a botanist was awarded to Larry Alston Whitford.
1926 -Whitford joined the department faculty. A phycologist, he pursued research on fresh-water algae, publishing numerous papers and becoming known world-wide.
1932- Upon consolidation of the University of North Carolina system, the institution became North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering of the University of North Carolina.
1932 -Wells published his unique book, The Natural Gardens of North Carolina. It was reprinted in 1967 and a revised edition prepared in 2002.
1933- Wells served as president of the North Carolina Academy of Science.
1934- Wells chaired an important college committee on revision of the institutional curriculum following university system consolidation.
1935- Dr. Murray Fife Buell joined the department faculty. Leaving for Rutgers University in 1946, he had an eminent career as a plant ecologist.
1936- The first Ph.D. degree in Botany was awarded, technically through the graduate school in Chapel Hill, to Andrew George Lang, a student of Anderson.
1936- Anderson became director of the Cotton Fiber Research Laboratory, a cooperative program of the college and the United States Department of Agriculture.
1939- With Bernard S. Meyer, Anderson published Plant Physiology, A Textbook For Colleges, which became a classic. A second edition was produced in 1952.
1940- The department moved from Patterson Hall to Winston Hall.
1943- Because of World War II, faculty in botany, zoology, entomology, and economics were organized into a Department of Geography. They taught a comprehensive course in that subject to military students.
1943- Wells served as president of the Southern Appalachian Botanical Club.
1945- Over the years the plant pathologists on the faculty had become more numerous than the other botanists, so a Plant Pathology Section was established within the department under the leadership of James Herbert Jensen.
1946- With the boom in post-World-War-II student enrollment the department faculty was enlarged by the addition of Ernest Aubry Ball (anatomy), William Basil Fox (taxonomy), and Herbert Temple Scofield (physiology). The following year Robert Kenneth Godfrey (taxonomy) replaced Buell.
1940’s- The introductory Botany course, which for years had been taught in a traditional separate lecture and laboratory format, was changed. Small classes were now taught by almost all faculty members in a combined lecture-laboratory arrangement using the Socratic method.
1946- Whitford was one of the eleven founding members of the Phycological Society of America.
1947- Anderson served as president of the American Society of Plant Physiologists.
1949- Wells relinquished hisduties as department head but continued as an active faculty member until 1954. Anderson was appointed as his successor.
1950- The Division of Biological Sciences was established with Anderson as head. It included four, later five, faculties, one of which was Botany with Scofield as head.
1950- Anderson was named head of the graduate school as associate dean and, in 1957, dean.
1950- The first Ph.D. degrees in Botany given through the graduate school in Raleigh were awarded to Willie Mack Dugger and Albert Boyd Pack (physiologists).
1950’s- A number of faculty changes occurred. Harold J. Evans (biochemistry, 1950) was added and later replaced by Joseph Stephen Kahn (biochemistry, 1961). Shunk died (1951); he was replaced by Alfred Francis Borg (bacteriology, 1953) and later by Gerald Hugh Elkan (bacteriology, 1958). Fox was accidentally killed (1952); he was replaced by Robert Lynch Wilbur (taxonomy, 1953) and later by James Walker Hardin (taxonomy, 1957). Added in 1954 were Ernest Oscar Beal (taxonomy) and William Alexander Brun (physiology); the latter was replaced in 1957 by James Richard Troyer (physiology). Wells retired and was replaced by Phillippe Francois Bourdeau (ecology, 1954) and later by Arthur Wells Cooper (ecology, 1958)
1951- Anderson received the O. Max Gardner Award of the University of North Carolina system, the first given to a faculty member at North Carolina State College.
1952- The department moved to the newly constructed Gardner Hall.
1953- The first female student to earn a MS. degree in Botany was Eloise Johansen. The second was Elizabeth Jean Chappell in 1966.
1953- Anderson served as president of the North Carolina Academy of Science.
1956- Heinz Seltmann of the USDA (tobacco physiology) became affiliated with the department. This arrangement was later expanded by the addition of other USDA personnel: Harold Edward Pattee (peanut physiology, 1963), Ralph E. Williamson (water relations, 1963), and Donald W. DeJong (tobacco physiology, 1968).
1956- Anderson served in Washington as an administrator in the National Science Foundation.
1957- Whitford served as president of the Phycological Society of America.
1958- Anderson left the college when he was named provost, later vice president, of the University of North Carolina system in Chapel Hill. The Division of Biological Sciences was abolished and its faculties became departments. The department was named the Department of Plant Biology and Bacteriology with Scofield as head. The bacteriology faculty group was subsequently increased by the addition of James B. Evans (1960), Walter Jerome Dobrogosz (1962), Frank Bradley Armstrong (1962), and Jerome John Perry (1964).
1960- An academic tenure system and procedures were established for faculty ranks at the college.
1961- An introductory course in general biology was introduced, as a consequence of which the elementary botany course was reduced from two semesters to one and reverted to a traditional lecture and separate laboratory format. Later an undergraduate curriculum in biological science was established and from time to time faculty members were added in Botany with primary responsibility in this activity.
1962 -The Institute of Biological Sciences, which included Botany and Bacteriology along with four other departments, was established to coordinate research and curricula.
1963- Scofield resigned the headship in order to work in the cooperative university-AID project in Peru. He was succeeded as head by Glenn Ray Noggle in 1964.
1960’s -A number of faculty changes occurred. Royall T. Moore (mycology) joined the department in 1964 and established a facility which became the Electron Microscope Center. Roger Carl Fites (physiology) was added in 1965 and Charles Eugene Anderson (anatomy) in 1966. Whitford retired in 1968 and was replaced by Harold E. Schlichting (phycology). Also in 1968 Ball and Beal resigned; the latter was replaced by Stephen D. Koch (taxonomy). Additions in 1969 were Udo Blum (ecology), Ernest Davis Seneca (ecology), and Cecil Gerald Van Dyke (mycology).
1963- The college awarded Wells the honorary degree Doctor of Science.
1964- The School of Agriculture became the School, later the College, of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
1964- Whitford served as president of the North Carolina Academy of Science.
1965- The institution became North Carolina State University at Raleigh.
1965- Department faculty moved to two new departments: Microbiology (Evans, Elkan, Dobrogosz, and Perry) and Biochemistry (Armstrong and Kahn). The department became the Department of Botany.
1965- The Southeastern Plant Environment Laboratory (Phytotron) was initiated with Robert Jack Downs as Director and Professor of Plant Biology.
1966- D. B. Anderson relinquished administrative duties but continued teaching on three campuses of the university system until retiring in 1972.
1967- The introductory botany course was reorganized to use the audio-tutorial format and a suitable laboratory was outfitted. In 1978 formal lectures were reintroduced, with laboratory sessions remaining audio-tutorial. In 1982 the course again became wholly audio-tutorial with almost all faculty members serving as tutors. The course reverted to a traditional lecture-laboratory format in 1986.
1967- The first female student to earn a Ph.D. degree in Botany was Yoon Kim (phycology).
1967- What later became the Martha Sue Sebastian Memorial Award for teaching by graduate students was initiated by the department.
1968- The undergraduate curriculum in Botany was revised. Courses required of majors were plant life, introduction to ecology, plant diversity, systematic botany, and plant physiology, as well as courses in related disciplines.
1968- The first female student to earn an undergraduate degree in Botany was Jane Green McNeary.
1968- With special support from the state legislature a cooperative program of research on coastal ecology was initiated by the Departments of Botany and Soil Science. Botanists involved were Cooper and Seneca.
1969- Supported jointly by the EPA and USDA, a research program on the effects of air pollution on plants was established at the university with Walter Webb Heck as Director and Professor of Plant Biology. The EPA- supported research later moved elsewhere, but the USDA component remained.
1969- The first African-American student to earn a MS. degree in Botany was Augustus McIver Witherspoon. He was also the first to receive the Ph.D. degree in 1971.
1969- Whitford, with George J. Schumaker, published the first edition of what became A Manual of Fresh-Water Algae, a work which became widely used as a textbook and reference.
1971- The Institute of Biological Sciences was abolished.
1971- The first African-American faculty member in Botany was Augustus McIver Witherspoon (phycology). In 1973 the second was Tommy Elmer Wynn (physiology).
1970’s- A number of other faculty changes occurred. Scofield retired in 1972. Schlichting and Koch resigned in 1973; the latter was replaced in 1974 by Jon Marshall Stucky (taxonomy). In 1974 James Fredric Reynolds (ecology) was added, as was Robert Lee Beckmann (taxonomy). While he was chancellor of the university, Joab L. Thomas (1976-81) was also Professor of Plant Biology.
1972- The first African-American student to earn an undergraduate degree in Botany was Carl Ray Barnes.
1972- The Cell and Tissue Culture Laboratory was established in the department and Ralph Lionel Mott became its director. The laboratory won research grants from government agencies and industrial companies and supported a number of graduate students and postdoctoral associates.
1972- Cooper became Assistant Director for Program Development in the North Carolina Department of Natural and Economic Resource Development, serving on leave there until 1976 when he returned to the university in the School of Forest Resources with a joint appointment in Plant Biology. During his absence the teaching of courses in ecology and plant geography was done by visiting professors: John Nemeth, Anthony Dvorak, Harriet Barclay, and Charles Racine. The ecology position vacated by Cooper was permanently filled in 1976 by Thomas Ralph Wentworth.
1973- Supported by a sizable grant from the Carolina Power and Light Company, a research program was established to study the influence of the Brunswick nuclear power plant on the ecology of salt marshes in the area. Faculty members involved in this effort, which continued until 1980, were Noggle, Seneca, and Blum, along with a number of students and research associates.
1976- Noggle, along with George John Fritz, authored a widely used textbook, Introductory Plant Physiology, a second edition of which was produced in 1983.
1977- Noggle resigned his administrative duties and was replaced as department head by Jerome Philip Miksche. Noggle served as Business Executive of the American Society of Plant Physiologists, retiring from that position and from the University in 1979.
1977- The first African-American female to earn a Ph.D. degree in Botany was Carol Janerette.
1977- The department staged a special commemorative dinner and ceremonies to honor five living men who had served as its head.
1979- Newly constructed Bostian Hall included teaching facilities for the department.
1979- The first female professorial faculty members in Botany were Wendy Farmer Boss (physiology) and Judith Fey Thomas (anatomy), who also became Assistant Director of the Phytotron.
1979- Witherspoon was named Assistant Dean of the Graduate School. He later became Associate Dean (1982) and Associate Provost of the University (1989).
1980’s- A number of faculty changes occurred.
In 1983 William Scott Chilton (natural product chemistry) joined the faculty. In 1986 JoAnn M. Burkholder (fresh-water ecology) was added and William F. Thompson (molecular botany) became University Research Professor. James Earl Mickle (paleobotany) and Rebecca S. Boston (molecular botany) joined in 1987. In 1989 Wynn died.
1981- An auditorium in Bostian Hall was named in honor of Wells.
1983- The Gourman Report, a rating of graduate programs in American universities, ranked the department twenty-fourth among 41 institution with graduate programs in Botany.
1984- The first African-American female to earn a MS. degree in Botany was Deogratias Artis.
1985- Miksche resigned. He was succeeded as department head by Seneca.
1988- The holiday Snowflake Contest was begun.
1991- The toxic fish-killing organism Pfiesteria piscicida was first characterized by Burkholder and collaborators. A second species, P. shumwayae was found in 2000.
1991- The department established the Larry A. Whitford Undergraduate Scholarship/Graduate Fellowship.
1991- The holiday publication, The Snowflake, was initiated. It later became The Hat and Tie, and still later The Leaf Litter.
1993- Downs retired as director of the phytotron and was succeeded by Thomas.
1993- The Gourman Report ranked the department twelfth among 40 institutions with graduate programs in Botany.
1994- Seneca retired. Eric Davies (physiology) replaced him as department head in 1995.
1990’s- A number of faculty changes occurred. Retiring were Mott (1993), Witherspoon (1994), Troyer (1995), C. E. Anderson (1995), Heck (1995), and Hardin (1996). Added were Dominique Robertson (molecular botany, 1992), Nina Stromgren Allen (cell biology, 1995), and Leigh A. Johnson (taxonomy, 1997). Johnson resigned in 1999 and was replaced by Qiu Yun (Jenny) Xiang (taxonomy) in 2000. Hiring of Robertson initiated formal connection of Plant Biology with the NCSU Biotechnology teaching program.
1996- Mickle served as president of the North Carolina Academy of Science.
1998- Beckmann received the Board of Governors Award for excellence in teaching, the highest teaching award given by the UNC system. He also received the USDA South Region Award for excellence in teaching.
1999- Davies resigned his administrative duties but remained as professor. He was succeeded by Margaret E. Daub (plant pathology), the first female department head of Botany.
2000- The department received one of the first two Departmental Awards for Teaching and Learning Excellence given by the University.
2000- An extension position was established in the department with the hiring of Alexander Krings as herbarium curator with responsibilities for extension plant identification.
2000’s- A number of faculty changes occurred. Retiring were Fites (2000), Blum (2002), and Chilton (2004). Added were Candace H. Haigler (cell wall physiology, 2003), Richard L. Blanton (Director of the University Honors Program, 2003), William A. Hoffman (ecology, 2004), Heike Winter-Sederoff (physiology, 2005), and Deyu Xie (natural products, 2005).
2001- Boss was named a William Neal Reynolds Professor.
2002- The Center for Applied Ecology was established with Burkholder as director.
2002- Vulpia, Contributions from the N. C. State University Herbarium (ISSN 1540-3599) was started as an online peer-reviewed publication of Botanical keys, detailed nomenclatural notes, discussions, and floristic notes. In 2005 it was added, by invitation, to the Directory of Open Access Journals maintained by Lund University in Sweden.
2004- Christopher S. Brown, Research Professor of Plant Biology and Director of Space Programs at NCSU, served as president of the American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology.
2004- JoAnn Burkholder named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
2004- Chilton Undergraduate Research Endowment established to fund undergraduate research in plant biology.
2005- Boston was named a William Neal Reynolds Professor.
2005- Allen became Chair of the NCSU faculty senate.
2005- Boss, Boston, Daub, Robertson, and Thompson moved from Gardner Hall to facilities on the Centennial Campus of the university.
2006- Van Dyke received the Board of Governors Award for excellence in teaching.
2006- The department became the Department of Plant Biology.
2006- Chad Jordan (plant development) joins the department as a teaching assistant professor and undergraduate coordinator, replacing Van Dyke.
2007- Daub was named a William Neal Reynolds Professor.
2007- Wendy Boss named an Inaugural Fellow of the Association of Plant Biologists.
2008 – Burkholder named a William Neal Reynolds Professor.Allen retires.
2009- Xie awarded The Arthur C. Neish Young Investigator Award by the Phytochemistry Society of North America.
2009- Burkholder receives the CALS/CNR Service to Society and the Environment award.
2010- Marc Johnson (ecology) joins the department.
2010- Alexander Krings publishes Manual of the Vascular Flora of Nags Head Woods, Outer Banks, North Carolina (New York Botanical Garden Press). Udo Blum publishes Plant-Plant Allelopathic Interactions; Phenolic Acids, Cover Crops and Weed Emergence (Springer).
2011- Johnson wins American Society of Naturalists’ “Young Investigator” Prize.
2011 Jordan receives both the NC State Outstanding Teacher Award and the Alumni Association Outstanding Teacher Award.
2011- Alexander Krings elected President of the Society of Herbarium Curators for the period 2012-2014.
2011- Terri Long (physiology) and Sirius Li (metabolic engineering) join the department as assistant professors. Sirius Li establishes a connection between Plant Biology and the Kannapolis Research Campus. Marc Johnson resigns.
2011- Winter-Sederoff moves to Centennial Campus.
2012- Alexander Krings’ position becomes tenure-track.