Kenneth Starr Chester

21 July 1906 – February 1969 4,5

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Herbarium (NCU) has only a handful of fungal specimens collected by Kenneth Starr Chester.  His specimen labels at NCU are typed and  the collector is noted as “K. S. Chester.” One  specimen, Alternaria fasciculata (Mycoportal catalog # NCU-F-0000170) was collected on asparagus from “Chester’s garden,” presumably his home garden in Stillwater, Oklahoma. As NCU’s collections continue to be catalogued more specimens deposited by Chester may be found.  Other herbaria curating specimens collected by Kenneth Starr Chester include Washington State University (WSP), Rutgers University (CHRB), Farlow Herbarium of Harvard University (FH), New York Botanical Garden (NY) , Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research New Zealand (PDD), Purdue University (PUR), University of California, Berkeley (UC), University of Georgia (GAM), University of Michigan (MICH), University of Nebraska State Museum (NEB), Cornell University (CUP), Illinois Natural History Survey, Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources (ILLS),  University of Wisconsin, Madison (WIS), and United States National Fungus Collections, USDA-ARS (BPI). 1

Kenneth Starr Chester was born 21 July 1906 in Turners Falls, an unincorporated village in the town of Montague, in Franklin County, Massachusetts to John D. W. Chester and Alice Chester nee Starr.2,4 He earned both bachelor and master degrees from Boston University, then a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1931 with his thesis “Graft-blight:  A disease of lilac related to the employment of certain understocks in propagation.”  He served as a Research Assistant at Arnold Arboretum (1931-1932), Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule in Zurich, Switzerland )1932-1933), and at Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (1933-1937) before going to Oklahoma where he spent the majority of his scientific career.  He was Professor of Botany and Plant Pathology at the Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College and Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station beginning in 1937.3

The following excerpt, from  Bushnell, William R. and Alan P. Roelfs, eds. (1984)  The cereal rusts.  Volume I:  Origins, Specificity, structure, and physiology, published by Academic Press, summarizes Chester’s research interests:

Kenneth Starr Chester was an active researcher on cereal rust epidemiology in Oklahoma from 1937-1948, a relatively short period.  His influence on epidemiology, however, was significant.  He summarized great volumes of previous work including much from eastern Europe (Chester, 1946; Chester et al., 1951).  The conclusions presented by Chester were not always those widely held by his contemporaries, but by 1960 his work was widely respected and cited.  His pleas for crop loss measurements (Chester, 1950) are only now receiving attention.

 Chester’s research involved the development of the “critical month” theory (Chester, 1946).  This theory states that the final severity of wheat leaf rust on fall-sown wheat is primarily determined during the spring 30-day period in which the daily mean temperature average is approximately 10° C (Chester, 1942, 1943, 1944).  In Oklahoma this is the month of March, but it would be earlier farther south and later northward.  In contrast, little correlation was found between the amount of leaf rust that developed in the fall and that occurring in the later spring.  Little pathogen increase occurred until mean temperatures reached 10°C.  The temperature and moisture during the 30-day period (critical month) immediately after winter when the normal mean temperature was 10°C were the most vital to disease development.  Following this period little correlation was found between weather and final disease severity, because the daily mean temperatures were generally in the range that allowed pathogen development, and the inter-year variation in weather did not significantly affect rust development.  Thus the inter-year variation of this later period was of no forecasting value.  The rust prediction system developed by Chester was used successfully in Oklahoma for more than 30 years.


PUBLICATIONS (incomplete list):

Chester, Kenneth S. (1933)  The problem of acquired physiological immunity in plants.  Quarterly Rev. of Biology.  8(2):  129-154.

Chester, Kenneth Starr (1935)  A serological estimate of the absolute concentration of Tobacco Mosaic Virus.  Science, New Series 82(2114):   17.

—– (1938)  A program for shade trees in Oklahoma.  Oklahoma Agricultural & Mechanical College, Agricultural Experiment Station.

—– (1939) The 1938 wheat leaf-rust epiphytotic in Oklahoma. Plant Die. Reptr, Suppl. 112.

—– (1940)  Seed treatments for cotton.  Oklahoma Agricultural & Mechanical College Agricultural Experiment Station. [incomplete citation]

—– (1940)  Diseases of field crops in Oklahoma.  Oklahoma Agricultural & Mechanical College Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin volume 119.

—– (1942)  A suggested basis for the prediction of wheat leaf rust epiphytotics.  Plant Dis. Rep. 26:  213-217.

—–  (1943)  The decisive influence of late winter weather on wheat leaf rust epiphytotics.  Plant Dis. Rep., Suppl. 143:  133-144.

—– (1944)  Low incidence of wheat leaf rust associated with unfavorable late winter weather and antagonism of Septoria tritici.  Plant Dis. Rep. 28:  280-287.

—–  (1946)  The nature and prevention of the cereal rusts as exemplified in the leaf rust of wheat.  Waltham, MA:  Chronica Botanica Co.

—– (1947)  Nature and prevention of plant diseases, 2nd ed.  The Blakison Company, Philadelphia.

—– (1950)  Plant disease losses:  Their appraisal and interpretation.  Plant Dis. Rep., Suppl. 193:  190-362.

Chester, K. S., F. A. Gilbert, R. E. Haye, and N. Newton (1951)  Cereal rusts:  Epidemiology, losses and control.  Battelle Mem. Inst., Columbus, Ohio.



1.  MyCoPortal . 2024. Accessed on June 11.

2. Chester, Kenneth Starr. United States, World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947, Oklahoma. Serial Number 1396, Order Number 2890.

3. Chester, Kenneth Starr (1946)  The nature and prevention of the cereal rusts as exemplified in the leaf rust of wheat.  Waltham, MA:  Chronica Botanica Co.

4. Massachusetts, U.S., Birth Records, 1840-1915 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013. Original data: Massachusetts Vital Records, 1840–1911. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts. Massachusetts Vital Records, 1911–1915. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts.

5. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2014. Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration.