Hepting, George H. (George Henry), 1907-

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1907-09-01
Death 1988-04-29

Biographical notes:

George Henry Hepting (1907-1988) retired from the U.S. Forest Service as Chief Plant Pathologist at the Southeastern Forest Experiment Station in 1971. From 1967 through 1984 he served as Visiting Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and the School of Forest Resources at North Carolina State University. Hepting did research on heartrot diseases of forest trees; the impact of fire scars, basal wounds, and stump sprouts on infection and spread of decay in many species of trees; the mechanisms by which trees restrict the development of decay and discoloration in tree stems; fusarium wilt disease of mimosa; the role of mating types in oak wilt fungus; fungal discolorations in felled timber and lumber of southern pines; the impact of discolorations and decay on the strength of wood veneers used in military aircraft; rust, twig, and foliage blights; pitch canker disease of southern pines; sweetgum blight; the ineffectiveness of actidione as a control for white pine blister rust; development of practical controls for annosus root rot and for management of nursery diseases with fumigant chemicals; cause of a serious dieback disease of pines in New Zealand; aspects of littleleaf disease of southern pines. He also directed pioneering research on the role of ozone and other photo-chemical oxidants as causes of diseases in forests.

From the description of George Henry Hepting papers, 1930s-1982 [manuscript] (North Carolina State University). WorldCat record id: 642346370

George Hepting, Chief Plant Pathologist at the Southeastern Forest Experiment Station, was born in Brooklyn, New York, on September 1, 1907. He attended Cornell University and received a B.S. degree in forestry in 1929 and a Ph.D. in forest pathology in 1933. Under the guidance of H. H. Whetzel, Hepting began to study the processes by which fungi and other pathogens induce disease in forest trees.

Even before completing his Ph.D., Hepting joined a cadre of scientists in the U.S. Department of Agriculture who were charged to protect American forests against disease. He rose through the ranks of the U.S. Forest Service from Field Assistant in 1931 to Chief of the Division of Forest Disease Research at the Southeastern Forest Experiment Station, 1953-1961, to Principal Research Scientist affiliated with the Forest Service’s Washington Office, 1962-1971.

Hepting retired from the Forest Service as Chief Plant Pathologist in 1971. From 1967 through 1984 he served as Visiting Professor and advisor to more than 30 graduate students in the Department of Plant Pathology and the School of Forest Resources at North Carolina State University.

Hepting’s first research was on the heartrot diseases of forest trees. He determined the impact of fire scars, basal wounds, and stump sprouts on infection and spread of decay in many species of trees. He was the first to describe the mechanisms by which trees restrict the development of decay and discoloration in tree stems to "tissues extant at time of wounding."

He studied the fusarium wilt disease of mimosa and developed wilt-resistant genotypes. He discovered the role of mating types in the oak wilt fungus. Before and during World War II, he studied fungal discolorations in felled timber and lumber of southern pines. He also quantified the impact of discolorations and decay on the strength of wood veneers used in military aircraft.

Hepting pursued research on many rust, twig, and foliage blights and discovered the pitch canker disease of southern pines. His research contributed to an understanding of sweetgum blight. He blew the whistle on the ineffectiveness of actidione as a control for white pine blister rust. He provided leadership for development of practical controls for annosus root rot and for management of nursery diseases with fumigant chemicals. He resolved uncertainty about the major cause of a serious dieback disease of pines in New Zealand.

Hepting organized research teams to investigate different aspects of littleleaf disease of southern pines and stimulated both industry and government to provide support for these efforts. It took years to understand the many causal agents that were involved-- a complex interaction between certain soil conditions, feeder-root pathogens, land use practices, stand density, and a progressive deficiency of nitrogen that developed in many pine stands as the trees increased in age--and to develop management practices to address them.

Hepting also directed pioneering research on the role of ozone and other photo-chemical oxidants as causes of diseases in forests. His 1963 paper on "Climate and Forest Diseases" is a classic in both climatology and forestry.

He developed the first computerized system for information retrieval in forestry. His 1971 book on Diseases of Forest and Shade Trees of the United States provides a comprehensive encyclopedia of knowledge on these topics. He wrote a definitive history of efforts to control both chestnut blight and the so-called Dutch elm disease after they were introduced on the North American continent.

Long before the concepts of integrated pest management became fashionable, Hepting emphasized the need to integrate disease-hazard evaluations and knowledge of disease-development processes into economically and biologically sound forest management systems. He also championed the need for basic research as a foundation for practical understanding and management of disease in forests . His role in the Timber Resources Review of 1953 permanently altered scientific understanding of the nature and magnitude of disease losses in forests. He was co-founder of the Southwide Forest Disease Workshop.

Hepting’s achievements in science were recognized by many honors and awards. In 1969, he became the first forester elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He also received the Superior Service Award of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1954 and the Barrington Moore Award for outstanding achievements in forestry research in 1963. He was elected a Fellow of the Society of American Foresters in 1965 and of the American Phytopathological Society in 1966. He received the Weyerhaeuser Award for Outstanding Historical Writing from the Forest History Society in 1974.

Hepting became an international leader and spokesman for forest disease problems worldwide. He traveled extensively and pursued research assignments in Europe, Puerto Rico, Haiti, and St. Croix. He also served as a consultant to the forest products industries of New Zealand and Australia.

Hepting died in Asheville, North Carolina, on April 29, 1988.

From the guide to the George Henry Hepting Papers, 1930s-1982, (Special Collections Research Center)

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Subjects:

  • Trees--Diseases and pests
  • Forests and forestry--Research
  • Pine--Diseases and pests
  • Trees--Diseases and pests--United States
  • Forests and forestry--Research--United States
  • Pine--Diseases and pests--United States

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not available for this record

Places:

  • United States (as recorded)