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Name: DOWSON, Walter John

Nee: son of Dr Walter Dowson, Director of Wellcome Physiological Research Lab.

Birth Date: 22 May 1887 Bristol

Death Date: 1 Sep 1963 Cambridge

First Date: 1913

Profession: Mycologist with the EAP Agricultural Department, successful in finding a spray to control rust fungus of coffee. He retired to work at the RHS Garden, Wisley

Area: Kilimani, Nairobi

Married: Apr 1915 Muriel Jessie Johnstone b. 13 July 1887 Tewkesbury, d. 6 Sep 1977 Cambridge

Children: Honor (1921 Guildford-2011); Anthony Morgan (24 June 1924 Guildford-2013)

Book Reference: Gillett, KFA, Red 22, Gazette, Red 19

War Service: EAMR in WW1

School: Dulwich, Oundle and Christ's College, Cambridge, PhD

General Information:

Found spray to control rust fungus of coffee. Retired to UK  
KFA - Kept the hybrid wheats developed by Mr G.W. Evans going, after his death, although he couldn't continue with the breeding programme
Gazette 1/5/1913 - Arrived on 1st Appointment - Mycologist - 18/4/1913
Gazette - 12/11/1919 - Register of Voters - Nairobi, South Area - Walter John Dowson - Government Mycologist, Kilimani and Mrs Muriel Jessie Dowson - Kilimani
Red Book 1919 - Agricultural Dept. - Mycologist - W.J. Dowson
Web - In 1913, Dowson went as government mycologist to Kenya, where he worked on sprays for control of coffee leaf rust caused by Hemileia vastatrix (4) and on diseases of various crops (5). Here he met Miss Muriel Jessie Johnstone, whom he married in April 1915, and a son and daughter were later born of the marriage. Mrs. Dowson took a close interest in her husband's work, which he regularly discussed with her. In 1920, Dowson was appointed mycologist to the Royal Horticultural Society'S Gardens at Wisley, south of London, and there he worked on various diseases, chiefly fungal, of ornamentals and fruit trees. In 1928, he went abroad again, accompanied by his wife and family, as plant pathologist to the Department of Agriculture in Tasmania (15, 16). There his professional skill together with his more human qualities made him a great success with the orchardists and other growers. To this day I can remember the envy with which I heard from my Australian colleagues of Dowson's popularity with the growers, with whom I was at first finding communication both difficult and alarming. The year 1932 was a significant divide in Dowson's research career and was the result of a generous benefaction to Cambridge University from the Rockefeller Foundation. This enabled both a considerable extension of the Botany School Building and the-acquisition of a field station on the outskirts of Cambridge, comprising about 1.2 ha land, glasshouses, and a field laboratory. An endowment was also provided for establishment of a Subdepartment of Mycology (under F. T. Brooks) and one of Plant Physiology (under F. F. Blackman). So Brooks secured Dowson's appointment as a university lecturer in his new subdepartment,from 1932 onwards. As an undergraduate, Dowson had impressed Brooks by his performance; less than five years in age separated student from youthful teacher but from then on Dowson continued to 'seek Brooks's advice whenever he needed it. But the traffic was not all one way; as colleagues they supported one another. At one time, Brooks had been quite a heavy cigarette smoker; Dowson eventually ·managed to persuade him to·do as he did and smoke a pipe instead. A pipe features prominently in all the later portraits of Brooks. When Brooks retired as professor of'botany in 1948, he was succeeded as director of the Subdepartment by Dowson, who ,then had only four years to go before his Annu. Rev. Phytopathol. 1981.19:29-34. Downloaded from
Up to the year 1932, Dowson's opportunities for programmed research had been severely circumscribed by the heavy demands of extension work in Kenya, at Wisley in England, and again in Tasmania. The decision, made with Brooks after his return to Cambridge as a teacher, that he should give a course of lectures and practical work on bacterial plant diseases also gave him at last the opportunity for sustained research on these diseases, on some of which he had already published (14, 15). As his bibliography from 1935 onwards shows, Dowson, together with his graduate students and visiting workers from overseas, worked on a wide variety of bacterial diseases. His overseas associates who published with him included Dr. Maria D'Oliveira from Portugal (17), Dr. Z. Volcani from Israel (28), Dr. J. C. Hopkins from Southern Rhodesia (30), Dr. K. A. Sabet from Egypt (33, 40), Dr. E.  Hellmers from Denmark (34), Dr. P. O. Wiehe from Nyasaland (now Malawi; 36), and Dr. D. Sutic from Yugoslavia (41, 42). Dowson corresponded regularly with plant bacteriologists in the USA and one of them, Dr. Mortimer P. Starr, was a particularly welcome visiting worker in Cambridge, as I can well remember. But Dowson's contributions to the understanding of bacterial plant diseases, important though they were, may well be outlasted by his influence on classification of the pathogens.
1939 England and Wales Register living in Cambridge with wife, as university lecturer in Botany

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