Alma Joslyn Whiffen Barksdale

(25 October 1916 – 5 July 1981)

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Herbarium (NCU) curates very few specimens collected by Alma Joslyn Whiffen Barksdale.  Our vascular plant collection contains one specimen she collected while an undergraduate at Maryville College in Tennessee, and about a dozen she collected as a graduate student in Chapel Hill.  Our mycological collection contains several macrofungi she collected — most with other graduate students and professors co-collectors.

The fungal herbarium at the New York Botanical Garden (NY) curates only 2 specimens collected by Dr. Whiffen Barksdale. (1)  She deposited 4 specimens of Achlya heterosexualis in the American Type Culture Collection. (3)

The Mertz Library of the New York Botanical Garden curates her papers.  “The Alma Whiffen Barksdale collection consists of correspondence, research papers, laboratory notebooks, manuscripts, grant records, reprints, and photographic material covering her graduate studies and career at The New York Botanical Garden from 1952 to 1975. Some material relates to her positions as book review editor of Mycologia and as Secretary-Treasurer of the Mycological Society of America.”(4)

In 1982 fellow mycologist wrote a memorial to Dr. Whiffen Barksdale in Mycologia, a journal in which she published frequently.  “It is always difficult to write of the life and the loss of a valued friend and colleague of many years.  But it is also an honor to be asked to do so, particularly in the case of Alma Whiffen Barksdale, surely one of the outstanding mycologists of our time.  The qualities she brought to her research, her thoughtful inquiry combined with her persistent and untiring follow up, are qualities that make for a first-rate scientist in any field; and really good science transcends the confines of a single discipline and sheds light on many disciplines.  Such is very much the case here…
Alma Whiffen was born on October 25, 1916, in Hammonton [Atlantic County], New Jersey.  She attended Maryville College at Maryville, Tennessee, and received a B.A. degree in 1937.  Her graduate work was done at the University of North Carolina [at Chapel Hill] under the direction of the well-known mycologist, Dr. John N. Couch, who remained always her favorite professor and close friend.  The admiration was mutual, for John Couch has always considered Alma one of the most capable students of his career.  After receiving her M.S. degree in 1939 and Ph.D. in 1941, she was granted a Carnegie Fellowship (1941-42) and continued post-doctoral research with Dr. Couch for another year.  Her major interest at Chapel Hill involved Oomycetes and Chytridiomycetes… The following year she was awarded a National Research Council Fellowship (1943-43) to work with Dr. W. H. Weston at Harvard University.
From 1943-52 Alma Whiffen was employed as professional mycologist in the Department of Antibiotic Research of the Upjohn Company at Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Cycloheximide (actidione), an antifungal agent (synthesized by Streptomyces griseus) discovered by Alma Whiffen in the mid-1940’s, has been used for controlling fungal spot diseases in cherries and on turfs of golf greens…
In 1951, Alma was a John Simon Guggenheim fellow with C. B. Van Niel at Pacific Grove.  In 1952 she married [Walter] Lane Barksdale.  They spent the following year in Paris, both working on research projects.
In 1955, Alma became a Research Associate at The New York Botanical Garden and was promoted to Senior Research Associate there in 1961.  During this period perhaps her most important discoveries were made, dealing with the sex hormone system of Achlya bisexualis Coker & A. Couch…
The Barksdales spent the year of 1960-61 in Japan, where Alma continued her research on Achlya at Kyoto University and Lane carried on his microbiological research at Kyoto and Osaka Universities…
Alma Barksdale became increasingly ill over a six year period as the result of a slowly devastating neurological disease… She died at her home on July 5, 1981.” (2)

Whiffen, Alma J. 1938.  Aphanomyces phycophilus in culture.  Amer. J. Bot. 25: 649-650.
Couch, J. N., J. Leitner, and Alma J. Whiffen.  1939.  A new genus of the Plasmodiophoraceae.  J. Elisha Mitchell Sci. Soc. 55: 399-408.
Whiffen, Alma J.  1939.  The cytology of Octomyxa achlyae.  M.S. Thesis, Botany Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Whiffen, Alma J.  1941.  Cellulose decomposition by the saprophytic chytrids.  J. Elisha Mitchell Sci. Soc. 57:  321-330.
–.  1941.  A new species of NeprochytriumNephrochytrium aurantium.  Amer. J. Bot. 28:  41-44.
–.  1942.  Two new chytrid genera.  Mycologia.  34:  543-557.
Couch, J. N. and Alma J. Whiffen.  1942.  Observations of the genus Blastocladiella.  Amer. J. Bot. 29:  582-591.
Whiffen, Alma J.  1942.  A discussion of some species of Olpidiopsis and Pseudolpidium.  Amer. J. Bot. 29:  607-611.
–.  1942.  Culture studies in the Chytridiales with relation to growth on synthetic media and decomposition of cellulose.  Ph.D. Thesis, Department of Botany, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
–.  1943.  New species of Nowakowskiella and Blastocladia.  J. Elisha Mitchell Sci. Soc.  59:  37-43.
–.  1944.  A discussion of taxonomic criteria in the Chytridiales.  Farlowia 1:  583-597.
–.  1945.  Nutritional studies of representatives of five genera of the Saprolegniaceae.  J. Elisha Mitchell Sci. Soc. 61: 114-123.
Emerson, R. L., Alma J. Whiffen, N. Bohonos, and C. De Boer.  1946.  Studies on the production of antibiotics by Actinomycetes and molds.  J. Bacteriol. 52:  357-366.
Whiffen, Alma J., N. Bohonos, and R. L. Emerson.  Actidione, a new antiobiotic from Streptomyces griseus.  J. Bacteriol. 52:  610.
Whiffen, Alma J.  1946.  Two new terricolous phycomycetes belonging to the genera Lagenidium and Blastocladiella.  J. Elisha Mitchell Sci. Soc. 62:  54-58.
Whiffen, Alma J. and G. M. Savage.  1947.  Relation of natural variation in Penicillium notatum to the yield of penicillin in surface culture.  J. Bacteriol. 53:  231-240.
Bohonos, N., R. L. Emerson, Alma J. Whiffen, M. P. Nash and C. De Boer.  1947.  A new antibiotic produced by a strain of Streptomyces lavendulae.  Arch. Biochem. 15:  215-225.
Whiffen, Alma J.  1948.  The production assay and antibiotic activity of actidione, an antibiotic from Streptomyces griseus.  J. Bacteriol. 56:  283-291.
–.  1950.  The activity in vitro of cycloheximide (actidione) against fungi pathogenic to plants.  Mycologia 42:  253-258.
–.  1951.  Effect of cycloheximide on the sporophyte of Allomyces arbuscula.  Mycologia 43:  635-644.
Barksdale, Alma Whiffen.  1960.  Interthallic sexual reactions in Achlya, a genus of the aquatic fungi.  Amer. J. Bot.  47:  14-23.
–.  1962.  Effect of nutritional deficiency on growth and sexual reproduction of Achlya ambisexualis.  Amer. J. Bot.  49:  633-638.
–.  1962.  Concerning the species Achlya bisexualis.  Mycologia 54:  704-712.
–.  1963.  The uptake of exogenous hormone A by certain strains of Achlya.  Mycologia 55:  164-171.
–.  1963.  The role of hormone A during sexual conjugation in Achlya ambisexualis.  Mycologia 55:  627-632.
Barksdale, Alma Whiffen, M. J. Carlile and L. Machlis.  1965.  A comparative study of hormone A and sirenin.  Mycologia 57:  138-140.
Barksdale, Alma Whiffen.  1965.  Achlya ambisexualis and a new cross-conjugating species of Achlya.  Mycologia 57:  493-501.
–.  1966.  Segregation of sex in the progeny of a selfed heterozygote of Achlya bisexualis.  Mycologia 58:  802-804.
–.  1967.  The sexual hormones of the fungus Achlya.  Ann. New York Acad. Sci.  144:  313-319.
McMorris, T. C. and Alma W. Barksdale.  1967.  Isolation of a sex hormone from the water mould Achlya bisexualis.  Nature 215:  320-321.
Barksdale, Alma Whiffen.  1968.  Meiosis in the antheridium of Achlya ambisexualis E87.  J. Elisha Mitchell Sci. Soc. 894:  187-194.
Arsenault, G. R., K. Biesmann, Alma W. Barksdale and T. C. McMorris.  1968.  The structure of antheridiol, a sex hormone in Achlya bisexualis.  J. Amer. Chem. Soc. 90:  5636-5636.
Barksdale, Alma Whiffen.  1969.  Sexual hormones of Achlya and other fungi.
–.  1970.  Nutrition and antheridiol-induced branching in Achlya ambisexualis.  Mycologia 62:  411-420.
Barksdale, Alma Whiffen and L. L. Lasure.  1973.  I.  Induction of gametangial phenotypes in Achlya.  Bull. Torrey. Bot. Club 100:  199-202.
Barksdale, Alma Whiffen, T. C. McMorris, R. Seshadri, T. Arunaschalam, J. A. Edwards, J. Sandeen and D. M. Greene.  1974.  Response of Achlya ambisexualis E87 to the hormone antheridiol and certain other steroids.  J. Gen. Microbiol. 82:  295-299.
McMorris, T. C., R. Seshadri, G. R. Weihe, G. P. Arsenault, and Alma Whiffen Barksdale.  1975.  Structures of oogoniol-1, -2 and -3, steroidal sex hormones of the water mold, Achlya.  J. Amer. Chem. Soc. 97: 2544-2545.

1.  accessed on 8 May 2020.
2.  Olive, Lindsay S.  1982.  Alma Whiffen Barksdale, 1916-1981.  Mycologia 74(3):  359-361.
3.  American Type Culture Collection.  searched 8 May 2020.
4.  “Records of the Laboratory (RG5)  ALMA WHIFFEN BARKSDALE RECORDS (1938-1973).  Accessed on 8 May 2020.