Worthington George Smith     (1835 - 1917)




Image of Worthington George Smith from Curtis Gates Lloyd (1898 - 1925) Mycological Notes
Worthington George Smith

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Biography
Sources
Selected publications
Genera

Biography

This Smith was mainly an illustrator and knowledgeable amateur. He had a brief period of fame in 1875 when he claimed to have discovered the 'resting spore' of the potato blight that was then devastating Ireland. The resting spore was the thick-walled spore, resistant to the elements, that overwintered in the fields and allowed the blight to reinfect the crop the next year. In the words of English,

But Smith's triumph was short-lived. By December Professor Anton de Bary ... had shown that the spores and their accompanying male fertilizing organs, which Smith had depicted within the potato leaves, belonged to another fungus which had contaminated his cultures, and that his drawings were even in some degree the product of his imagination. Britain had no experimental mycologists at that date capable of repeating and checking the observations of Smith and de Bary, and the journals which had published Smith's claim with such a flourish dared not risk losing face by throwing doubt on his work, so his reputation in Britain remained high until the true resting spore was discovered nearly 20 years later.


Sources

Mary P. English (1987) Mordecai Cubitt Cooke, Victorian Naturalist, Mycologist, Teacher & Eccentric


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Selected Publications

Worthington George Smith (1908) Synopsis of the British Basidiomycetes
E. A. Bessey describes this charitably as "A descriptive catalogue of the drawings and specimens in the Department of Botany, British Museum." C. G. Lloyd takes it as an attempt to describe actual fungi and likens it, less charitably, as something like an attempt by someone living in the Sahara to write a book about a rain forest.


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Genera

Tubaria (W. G. Smith) C. C. Gillet

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