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In Memoriam

In Memoriam: Donald E. Wimber (1930- 1997)

Professor Don Wimber, one of the orchid worlds luminaries and kindest gentlemen, died of a heart attack while jogging in Sydney, Australia, on 22 October 1997. Winner of the Gold Medal of Achievement in 1991from the American Orchid Society and the Westonbirt Medal in 1993 from the Royal Horticultural Society, Don was a brilliant cytogeneticist willing to share his knowledge and enthusiasm, which sparked the breeding of some of our most spectacular polyploid hybrids of Paphiopedilum, Cymbidium, Phragmipedium, Miltonia and Odontoglossum.

Don received his B.A. from San Diego State University and his M.S. and Ph.D. from Claremont College in Pomona, California. As a young graduate student he worked at Dos Pueblos Orchid Company and studied the chromosomes of species and hybrids of Cymbidium and Miltonia. From 1958 to 1963 he continued his work in genetics on fellowships from the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. and received the N.I.H. Career Development Award.

In 1963 he was appointed Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Oregon. In that same year he published the first complete procedure for mass clonal propagation of cymbidiums by tissue culture, which was to revolutionize the orchid industry. Five years later Don was awarded the rank of Professor and continued to lecture in botany even after his retirement.

Don spent two enjoyable sabbatical years in the Cytogenetics Section of the Jodrell Laboratory at Kew, one in 1981 and another in 1988 with his wife Carol. On the latter sabbatical he spent a large portion of his time determining the chromosome numbers of the Odontoglossum alliance, including species and primary hybrids, to try to relate chromosome numbers to an understanding of the evolution of genera/species, the formation of natural hybrids and polyploids, and the probable fertility of artificial hybrids. This was often a daunting task as odontoglossums and their relatives have tiny chromosomes. The polyploids sometimes would have over 100 chromosomes, which made them very difficult to see and count.

While on sabbatical Don visited the Eric Young Orchid Foundation across the Channel on Jersey and studied the chromosomes of certain cultivars to determine which would benefit by chromosome doubling with colchicine. Following his retirement he worked closely with Alan Moon there and produced some of the most spectacular tetraploids of several genera ever made, most notably in Phragmipedium.

Don was one of those rare orchid personalities able to move among scientific and horticultural circles equally well and bridge the gap between them for the benefit of all. Just as important, he did so with a modest style and easygoing warmth that made immediate friends of even new acquaintances. His many contributions, some of which have become part of our everyday lives, will never be forgotten.

Alec Pridgeon

In Memoriam: Jack Greatwood (1918- 1998)

Mr. Jack Greatwood, Registrar of the International Register of Orchid Hybrids for nearly 20 years and Secretary of the International Orchid Commission for 10 years, died on 5 January 1998 at age 79.

Jack began his orchid career with brother Alan at the famous Sussex nursery Charlesworth & Co. in 1934 and returned there after wartime service in the RAF. In 1971 he joined the staff of the Royal Horticultural Society as Registrar of orchid hybrids and soon made his mark in the RHS with his attention to detail and boundless memory for orchid events and people as well as species and hybrids. In his two decades as Registrar there was an enormous increase in orchid hybrid registrations. These were to fill three five-year Addenda to Sanders List of Orchid Hybrids, each one larger than the last and all indispensable to orchid hybridizers.

In 1960 he became a member of the International Orchid Commission, and in 1981 he was invited to become Secretary of that organization, a post he held until 1990. When he was 78 he was made an Associate of Honour of the RHS, conferred on individuals who have made distinguished contributions to horticulture.

We shall miss Jacks incredible store of knowledge and his authoritative presence both at the judging table and World Orchid Conferences.

Alec Pridgeon

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Last Updated September 3, 1998.
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