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Three Scientists Introduced into ARS Hall of Fame

By Jim De Quattro
September 17, 1999

BELTSVILLE, Md., Sept. 17--The development of industrial polymers, the pioneering of molecular markers, and research in avian tumor virus have earned three Agricultural Research Service scientists a place in the agency’s Science Hall of Fame. ARS is the chief research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Dr. Charles Stuber, Dr. Richard Witter and the family of Dr. Allene Jeanes will be presented with plaques citing the scientists’ achievements. An induction dinner ceremony is scheduled for Sept. 22 at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.

“These three scientists have made tremendous contributions to agricultural research during their careers. We welcome them into the Hall of Fame,” said ARS Administrator Floyd Horn.

Since 1986, the ARS Hall of Fame program has recognized agency researchers for outstanding career achievements in agricultural science. Those inducted are nominated by their peers for making major contributions to agricultural research. The scientists must be retired or eligible to retire to receive the honor.

Jeanes, who joined USDA in 1941 at what is now the ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Ill., devoted more than 35 years of service to USDA before retiring from ARS in 1976. During her lifetime, she received four other awards from ARS for her numerous research accomplishments. She was the first woman to be awarded USDA’s highest civilian award, the Distinguished Service Award, in 1953.

She began her research studying the basic structure of starch, which led to a focus on dextran, a polysaccharide made from sucrose and produced by microbes. Her work resulted in a blood plasma substitute that saved many lives. Jeanes and her team also created one of the most widely used water-soluble thickening agents, xanthan gum, which is still used by the food and pharmaceutical industries. It is also used by heavy-industry companies such as those in oil and gas manufacturing. Jeanes died on Dec. 15, 1995.

Stuber, who joined ARS in 1962, served as supervisory research geneticist and research leader for the USDA-ARS Plant Science Research Unit in Raleigh, N.C. During his nearly 36 years with ARS, Stuber made numerous significant research advances in plant breeding. Stuber has received several awards, including being named the agency’s Outstanding Scientist of the Year in 1989. Although Stuber officially retired in January 1998, he still serves as a collaborator on several research projects that were in progress at the time of his retirement.

Stuber will be recognized for creating methods for using molecular markers to identify and map the major genes responsible for the expression of economically important traits in plants. Stuber’s research led the plant breeding industry to revolutionize crop breeding procedures and influenced animal breeding technology.

Witter, a veterinary medical officer at the Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory in East Lansing, Mich., has studied chicken and turkey diseases for nearly 40 years. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including USDA’s Distinguished Service Award. His research and leadership, including 23 years as lab director, have made the East Lansing lab one of the most important scientific resources for the poultry industry worldwide.

Witter has developed vaccines and other controls against two major chicken viruses, Marek’s disease and avian leukosis. One of Witter’s most significant accomplishments was the discovery the cause of Marek’s disease, a herpesvirus that causes infectious T- cell lymphomas in chickens. This discovery led Witter and his team to develop the first U.S. vaccine against Marek’s disease in 1970. This vaccine and subsequent improved vaccines developed by Witter’s group and others continue to be used worldwide, saving the poultry industry more than $100 million per year.

Permanent copies of the plaques presented to the scientists will be on display at ARS’s National Visitor Center in Beltsville, Md.