Elbert Thomas Bartholomew


The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Herbarium (NCU) curates about 20 mycological specimens collected by Elbert Thomas Bartholomew, who typically signed his specimen labels “E. T. Bartholomew”.  NCU curates specimens collected by his father, Elam Bartholomew, who typically signed his specimens labels “E. Bartholomew.”  In addition, NCU has cataloged a specimen collected by Elbert’s brother, Jesse Elam Bartholomew (1882-?).

“Dr. Elbert Thomas Bartholomew, eminent Plant Physiologist and Chairman for 13 years of the division of Plant Physiology (now Biochemistry) in the Citrus Experiment Station [at the University of California, Riverside], died October 2, 1967, after a long, lingering illness.  He was the second oldest son of seven children of Dr. Elam Bartholomew and Rachel Isabel Montgomery Bartholomew.  He was born October 18, 1878, on the homestead farm of his distinguished mycologist father, and was educated in the country schools, and grew to manhood in Bow Creek Valley near Stockton, Kansas.

He taught in the county schools near his home for three years.  During this time, his father edited and published Ellis and Everhart’s Fungi Columbiana (1901).  The long association with his faterh in his work and the stimulation from contacts with other plant scientists such as W. T. Swingle, field trips with his father, and other activities resulted in his determination to embak on a career in plant science.  Entering Kansas State Teachers College at Emporia in 1902, he obtained his teachers’ certificate and became an Assistant in Botany in 1907.  In 1909 he was awarded the Bachelor of Arts degree and continued as Assistant Professor of Botany through the following year.  Th next fall he obtained a Fellowship in Botany at the University of Wisconsin [Madison] with Professor Charles Elmer Allen, the renowned Plant Cytologist.  Here he continued as Instructor in Plant Physiology until 1914, except for the summer of 1912 which he spent at Wood’s Hole Biological Station.  He was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in 1914.  His research was concerned with “A pathological study of blackheart of potato tubers,” and this work was published in the Centralblatt fur Bakteriologie in 1915.  It is standard reference even to this date.  He stayed at the University of Wisconsin as Assistant Professor of Botany until 1920.  There he met Mary Lucille Keene who held a Fellowship in Plant Cytology during the year 1913-14.  The acquaintance ripened into friendship and they were married in 1916 following the ceremonies at the University of Missouri in which Miss Keene received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.  He returned to Wisconsin with his bride who became not only a vigorous fellow worker but also a devoted helpmate throughout his life.

A leave of absence spent at Stanford University in 1917-18 opened up an opportunity to become Assistant Professor of Plant Pathology at the University of California’s Citrus Experiment Station and Graduate School of Tropical Agriculture in Riverside. He then began his classical studies of internal decline in the lemon. He advanced to Associate Plant Physiologist in 1926 and, along with renewed work on the blackheart of potato tubers, continued his studies of internal decline in the lemon. With Dr. J. P. Bennett as co-author, results were extended to cover the effect of low-temperature-induced oxygen deficiency on the tyrosine-tyrosinase enzyme system. By this time he had established that internal decline of the lemon may be caused by Alternaria or by an internal physiological disintegration of tissue in the fruit resulting from high temperatures and water deficits in the orchard. His new position afforded further physiological studies on this malady and he was able to recommend cultural and processing practices to control it. The study also led to further expansion in the field of water relations. He worked out 17 papers on the internal decline of the lemon and two basic papers on citrus leaf transpiration. These are still of importance. With Professor Howard S. Reed he investigated water relations, studying water translocation of young citrus fruits and also the effect of desiccating winds on citrus trees. The latter work is now a classic. Dr. Bartholomew succeeded Professor Reed as head of the Division of Plant Physiology in 1934. He was made Professor of Plant Physiology and Plant Physiologist in the Experiment Station in 1939. His interests in research had been gradually shifting from water relations to two new fields, the effect of insecticides on citrus and the granulation of citrus fruit. The latter was a baffling internal disorder in which the large Valencia oranges appeared to developed crystals in the pulp.

From this time until his retirement, he collaborated with Dr. Walton B. Sinclair and as either Senior or Junior Author completed 10 papers on the effects of hydrocyanic acid gas on the physiology and composition of citrus, five papers on the effects of oil spray on citrus, 10 papers on fruit quality of citrus, 10 papers on granulation of citrus fruits, and four papers on date fruit, out of a total of some 103 papers. Together with H. S. Reed he wrote Chapter 6, the “General Morphology, Histology, and Physiology of Citrus Fruits,” for the monumental two-volume work The Citrus Industry edited by H. J. Webber and L. D. Batchelor. He kept his regular office hours even after retirement, using this opportunity to write with W. B. Sinclair a book on The Lemon Fruit–Its Composition, Physiology, and Products which was published by the University of California Press in 1951. He subsequently began a book on the grapefruit but was overtaken by his illness before the final proofs were complete.

Dr. Bartholomew was a modest and methodical man, quietly entertaining with a ready, dry wit. He enjoyed building the apparatus necessary for his experiments. He made this both part of his profession and a hobby, constructing his apparatus at home at night. His work was done with great precision. He was inventive and made one of the first photo-electric colorimeters in this country.

Although Dr. Bartholomew was primarily interested in research problems of the developing citrus industry of southern California, he gave his aid in local University of community affairs. He was a founding member of the Riverside Kiwanis Club, an Elder in the Calvary Presbyterian Church for over 30 years, and a member of the Presbyterian Church Choir and Civic Chorus. He was a member of the Kappa Delta Pi, Gamma Alpha, and Sigma Xi fraternities. He was a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member of the American Phytopathological Society, the American Society of Plant Physiologists, the Botanical Society of America, and the Western or Pacific Sections of these scientific societies. He was a member of the Western Society of Naturalists and served as Chairman of the Pacific Division of the Botanical Society of America in 1920-21 and again in 1930-31. In 1956 the Lemon Men’s Club conferred on him its “Award of Honor, in appreciation and recognition for outstanding contributions to the success of the Citrus Industry.”

When southern California tree crop industries were rapidly expanding, “Doc,” as he was affectionately called by his colleagues, lunched daily in the open sunlit patio of the “Main Building” where there was animated conversation, among fellow scientists and visitors alike, concerning plant and world problems. Plant scientists from nearby laboratories, experiment stations, and universities, and citrus-oriented visitors from similar institutions around the world, tarried here to compare observations before proceeding to the horseshoe court for the choicest fun of the day, and “Doc” ably took his place with the stars. The loss of a colleague, who lived by his father’s motto, “Good enough is not good enough,” is keenly felt.

Dr. Bartholomew is survived by his wife, Lucille, who watched over him constantly in the eight years of his fatal illness; two daughters, Mrs. Martha Castle of Rockville, Maryland, and Mrs. Lois Chadwick of Burbank, California; eight grandchildren; and two brothers, Dr. Jesse Bartholomew of Topeka, Kansas, and Lee Bartholomew of Wakeeney, Kansas.” (1)

1.  H. D. Chapman L. J. Klotz W. B. Sinclair F. M. Turrell.  1968.  In Memoriam:  Elbert Thomas Bartholomew.  University of California.
http://texts.cdlib.org/view?docId=hb238nb0d8;NAAN=13030&doc.view=frames&chunk.id=div00003&toc.depth=1&toc.id=&brand=calisphere  accessed on 8 March 2021.