1965 Honorary Life Member Selections


John S. Niederhauser was born in 1916 in the San Frmlcisco bay area of California. He initiated his higher education in the school of hard knocks by taking a trip to Europe when he was about 16. Although funds were limited John hoped to supplement them by working his way. So, by hitchhiking, often sleeping on the ground and working his way overseas on a cattleboat, he managed to get to Berlin in time to see the Olympic games in 1932 just as Hitler was becoming established. Soon after this he was in Moscow where he found himself in a park in which there was set up a kind of “science zoo.” Experts in various fields sat in little booths with exhibits which they were prepared to explain. While looking at the plant breeding exhibit, he asked the attendant some questions in English. The answers were in perfect English and the attendant then began asking him some questions. He explained that he was a tourist from the U.S.A. but would soon have to leave because funds were running out. The attendant then suggested that he apply for a job on a farm in the Ukraine and added: “Here’s my card. Yon can use my name.” The name on the card was N. J. Vavilov. John got the job. Later Vavilov offered him an assistantship at Moscow University but he thought he would rather come back and enter Cornell University, wlnich he did.

He obtained his B.S. in 1939 and went on in Cornell for his Ph.D. which he took in 1943. From 1945-7 he was Assistant Professor at Cornell. During the summer months from 1939 to 1944 he worked as a seed potato inspector.

In 1947 he joined the Rockefeller Foundation and went to Mexico. His headquarters has been Mexico City since then. Here, besides his scientific pursuits he has promoted little league baseball and through two marriages has acquired 7 children, almost enough for his own ball team. He demonstrated that it was possible to grow potatoes in Mexico during the rainy season if they were very well sprayed. The growers appear to have accepted his teaching for in the ten years from 1953 to 1963 the acreage of potatoes in Mexico increased 63%, the yield per acre 5,454 and the total production 142%. Yields are still low but the trends are all up and there is room in the market for more potatoes.

Johnny is still with the Rockefeller Foundation but his field of interest and area of activity have both expanded as he is now in charge of their International Food Crop Improvement project as well as their International Potato Improvement Program.

Dr. Nieclerhauser has published at least 49 papers dealing with subjects as diverse as varietal susceptibility to apple rust, a hacterial disease of Russian dandelion, corn stunt, bean diseases, mint rust and potato varieties. Most of his publications deal with potato late blight or the fungus cansing it.

I am afraid my rambling remarks have led us rather far from our central purpose which is, to present Dr. John S. Niederhauser for Honorary Life Membership in The Potato Association of America and this I now do.

Karl H. Ferno, Nominator


For the past thirty years, Dr. Martin Cardenas has been professor of botany at the Universidad Mayor de San Simon, Cochabamba, Bolivia. During this period, he has directed the advanced studies of more than 300 advanced students in the field of botany, many of whom have moved on to professional careers in the plant sciences in Latin America.

For many years and with great devotion, Dr. Cardenas has studied the cultivated and wild species of potatoes in his native Bolivia and in surrounding countries. He is recognized as the authority on these potato species. His many publications on these species, and on their actual and potential value as germplasm materials for potato improvement, have testified to his broad and intimate knowledge of these plants. The few breaks in the continuity of his teaching career have come through recognition of his experience with the Central Andean potatoes, and he has spent study leaves at Cambridge, England and at the Max Planck Institute in Germany.

Dr. Cardenas is the first Latin American scientist to be honored by election to Life Membership in the Potato Association of America. It is not only a well-deserved honor at the culmination of his brilliant career as a scientist and a teacher, but is perhaps symbolic of the gradual and important strengthening of ties amongst those interested in the culture of potatoes throughout the Americas.

John S. Niederhauser, Nominator


I would like to nominate for honorary life membership in The Potato Association of America CLAUDE E. BOTKIN, Arvin, California. Claude was born June 15, 1901, at Ellington, Missouri and is one of a family of 7 children. In 1909, the family moved to Arizona where Claude attended grade and high school at Tempe, Arizona. In 1917 he entered the armed services in World War I. In 1923 he married Miss Sabrey Collins, an Arizona school teacher, and moved to California where he attended extension classes at USC in mathematics, engineering, and economics. He began working for an oil company, and when the company went bankrupt in 1932 he began work for an engineering firm which took him to Kern County, California, where he observed tile Kern County farmers growing potatoes and cotton. He decided in 1932 to become a farmer, and grow potatoes and cotton and has been at it ever since.

In his thirst for knowledge about growing potatoes, he became a member of The Potato Association of America and has been a faithful member for many years. He has been a member of the Kern County Potato Association since its inception, in fact he was the temporary president of the Kern County Potato Association during is organizational period and was the first president of the Kern County Potato Association, which is now the California Potato Growers Association. He was a member of the Kern County Potato Pro-Rate Committee; member of the Society of Automotive t~ngineers; a member of the Commonwealth Club of California; and a member of the USDA War-Food Labor Advisory Committee; a member of the USDA Research and Marketing Act Potato Advisory Committee; and a member of the Potato Chip Institute International. He was one of the three original agitators to start the National Potato Utilization Conference.

He planted the first Kennebec seed crop in Tehachapi in 1950 and from that time on has been supplying Kennebecs to seed growers and chippers. He has run many varietal trials with potatoes on his farm and has tested ahnost all of the more recently introduced varieties which might be of value to the potato chippers in cooperation with both private and public breeders. He has been planting about 200 numbered seedlings annually for evaluation and area adaptation.

In 1953 he built and developed machinery to completely mechanize and bulk handle his potato operation. By the use of pallet boxes, fork lifts, harvesters, etc., he now has a completely mechanized potato industry. In 1954 he built a 160-car potato storage for chip potatoes with mechanically controlled temperature and humidity instruments. He has been one of the foremost advocates of developing information on handling and management of storage for higher quality seed and has been one of the outstanding members of the California potato industry.

It is with a great deal of admiration and respect that I nominate Claude E. Botkin for honorary life membership in The Potato Association of America.