In Memory Of

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Dr. Diter von Wettstein


Dr. Diter Von Wettstein passed away after a brief illness on April 13, 2017. As a youngster, Diter spent many days visiting the Botanical Gardens of Göttingen and Munich, Germany, and was schooled in Berlin, Vienna and Innsbruck. He earned PhDs at the University of Tübingen, Germany, in biology/ biochemistry in 1953 and the University of Stockholm, Sweden, in genetics the same year. In 1957, he earned a DSc in genetics at the University of Stockholm, Sweden.

Awarded a Rockefeller fellowship in 1958, he conducted research using the phytotron at the California Institute of Technology, learned the ropes of bacterial and phage genetics at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, and pursued spectroscopic analyses of his mutants at Carnegie Institution’s Department of Plant Biology at Stanford University. This work provided him the opportunity to deliver a seminar and visit with the late Dr. Robert A. Nilan at Washington State University, which subsequently developed into a long-standing cooperation on mutation research and breeding of novel barley varieties.

From 1962 to 1975, Dr. von Wettstein served as professor of genetics and head of the Institute of Genetics at  Copenhagen University in Denmark; from 1972 to 1996 he was professor and head of the Department of Physiology at Carlsberg Laboratory (also in Denmark), and director of Carlsberg Plant Breeding. In 1996, von Wettstein accepted the R.A. Nilan Distinguished Professorship at Washington State University (WSU). He retired from WSU in 2016.

Dr. von Wettstein supervised over 75 PhD students with dissertations in genetics, plant and brewers yeast breeding, developmental physiology, cell biology, plant biochemistry, and molecular biology. Much of the research in his laboratories at Copenhagen and Pullman was carried forward by 120 postdoctoral fellows and visiting scientists. He published over 350 articles in various high profile U.S. and international journals. He was a member of 11 Academies of Sciences, has been awarded an honorary Dr. agro.h.c. by the University of Agriculture,  Copenhagen, and received, from the president of Austria, the distinguished decoration for rendering outstanding service to the Republic of Austria.

Diter was a good friend and colleague. Our thoughts to out to his wife Penny and his family.

-The Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Washington State University