Field of Science

Botany loses a big man

One of my favorite botanists, Charlie Heiser, died last month after a long life (90 yrs) and very productive career. He was a wonderful man, knowledgeable, funny, interested, and interesting. Charlie was tall, imposing at times, so much so he once plucked a high quality Panama hat off my head, found that we had a similar hat size (XL) and strode off with a brisk wave and his new acquired head gear. He never had much natural protection up there and needed the hat more. Charlie was indirectly responsible for generating my interest in the botany of economically important plants because the Phactor was sort of a nephew once removed having had one of Charlie’s students as a mentor. Another quite interesting thing is that Charlie, unlike many scientists, really liked writing about his interests for the general public, and his book Nightshades, the paradoxical plants is a very entertaining read about some fascinating members of this family, including one of his favorites, the chili pepper (thus the picture of chili peppers for sale in southern India - No! That's not Charlie.). Another of Charlie’s books Seed to Civilization is a good primer on origins of agriculture and crop plants, although the chapter on Seeds, Sex, and Sacrifice caused us to kid him about proposing the dirty old man hypothesis. Sorry, my copies are not for sale, but used ones can be found.
People like Charlie Heiser have a legacy and an impact far beyond their immediate students and colleagues. Botany is a smaller world without him.

1 comment:

Pat said...

I read his Nightshades book a decade or so ago. He really got across his enthusiasm and delight in the subject.