Nicholson, Ralph (?)-2007

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Nicholson, Ralph (?)-2007


Died October 10, 2007. Education: Purdue University, Ph.D.


Botanist, educator, and writer. Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, professor of plant pathology; also was a guest professor at the University of Konstanz, Germany.


American Physiological Society (fellow), Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (fellow).


(With Heather Johnston Nicholson) Distant Hunger: Agriculture, Food, and Human Values, Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN), 1979.

(With Wilfred Vermerris) Phenolic Compound Biochemistry, Springer (Dordrecht, Holland), 2006.

Contributor to books, including Host Specificity, Pathology and Host Pathogen Interaction of Colletotrichum, edited by D. Prusky, S. Freeman, and M. Dickman, APS Press, 1999. Contributor to periodicals, including Physiological and Molecular Plant Pathology, New Phytologist, Fungal Genetics and Biology, American Journal of Enology and Viticulture, Mycoscience, Phytochemistry, Summa Phytopathologica, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Canadian Journal of Botany, Polyphénol Actualités, International Journal of Plant Science, Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions, Experimental Mycology, Maydica, and Mycological Research.


Ralph Nicholson was a botanist whose specialty was disease physiology in plants. One area of his research focused on the disease physiology of plants, such as corn and sorghum. Specifically, Nicholson was interested in what enabled them to protect themselves from infections by pathogenic fungi. He was also interested in understanding how fungi are able to survive under adverse conditions.

Nicholson also wrote, with Heather Johnston Nicholson, Distant Hunger: Agriculture, Food, and Human Values. Published in 1979, the book examines the world hunger problem within a wide range of considerations, from technical and biological aspects to the complex social, political, economic, and moral aspects of hunger. The authors include a discussion of different conceptions of the world food problem and compare traditional agricultural practices with modern practices. They also present a classification of nations as being either food-sufficient and food-deficient and rich or poor. They go on to analyze food policies in developed Western nations, including the United States and nations in Europe, as well as examples of less-developed nations. The book also delves into potential solutions to food scarcity and hunger. Throughout, the authors emphasize the complexity of the issues surround food shortages and hunger.

Nicholson also wrote, with Wilfred Vermerris, Phenolic Compound Biochemistry. Designed for researchers and for advanced students in the life sciences, the book examines both the chemical diversity of phenolic compounds and their wide variety of uses and effects, from their beneficial effects in red wine, to tannin use in leather production, to how plants use phenolic compounds in their physical and mechanical defense mechanisms against fungi. Phenolics, also called phenols, are chemical compounds that have numerous unique properties. In addition to discussing these properties, the authors write about biosynthesis, isolation and characterization of phenolic compounds, and how phenolics impact human health. The text also includes illustrations of chemical structures and reaction schemes.

The authors begin their with an overview of phenolic compounds, including definitions and classes of these compounds. They then go on to discuss benzene rings. Chapter three includes an examination of protein isolation and purification, gene cloning strategies, and biosynthesis of phenolic compounds. Next, the authors explore the isolation of phenolic compounds and the identification and characterization of these compounds, as well as their visualization via histochemical stains. Chapter five focuses on mass spectrometry while chapter six analyzes preformed antimicrobial and insecticidal metabolites and the compounds formed in response to pathogens. The authors close with a discussion of phenolic compounds' antioxidant properties and their role in disease prevention and activity against toxins.



Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, October, 2007, B. Williams, review of Phenolic Compound Biochemistry, p. 311.


Purdue University Press Web site, (August 20, 2008), overview of Distant Hunger: Agriculture, Food, and Human Values.

Purdue University Web site, (August 20, 2008), faculty profile of author.

Springer Web site, (August 20, 2008), overview of Phenolic Compound Biochemistry.

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Nicholson, Ralph (?)-2007

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