Benjamin Minge Duggar

Born September 1, 1872 in Gallion, Alabama, Benjamin Minge Duggar became an influential botanist driven to learn, teach, and help humanity. At age 19, Duggar received a Bachelor’s of Science degree from Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College and, the following year, received a Master’s degree from Alabama Polytechnic Institute (known today as Auburn University). Thirsting for knowledge, Duggar went on to receive bachelor’s and master’s of arts degrees at Harvard and a Ph.D. in Mycology and Plant Physiology at Cornell.

In 1892, after returning from a horticulture research excursion to Germany, France, and Italy, Duggar’s first paid position was as assistant director of the Alabama Experiment Station in Uniontown, Alabama. Duggar taught at several well-respected institutions including Harvard, Radcliffe, and Cornell, and he served with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and with the State of Illinois as assistant state botanist. Nationally known as an exceptional plant pathologist, Duggar loved to teach and wrote three of the fundamental horticulture textbooks, “General Botany”, “Plant Physiology”, and “Fungous Diseases of Plants”. He served as president of the Botanical Society of America, vice president of the Society for Industrial Mycology, chairman of the Division of Biology and Agriculture and National Research Council, and a trustee of the Oceanographic Institute.

Duggar retired from academia in 1943 as Emeritus Professor at the University of Wisconsin and went on to work as an industry consultant with Lederle Laboratories, a division of American Cyanamid Company. At the age of 74, while experimenting with timothy field soil samples, he helped isolate an organism that produced the antibiotic Aureomycin. Aureomycin was introduced in 1948 and provided physicians with the first broad-spectrum antibiotic and led to the development of new generations of antibiotics for human disease treatment.

Duggar, who died in 1956, was married to the late Elsie Rist. They had six children and thirteen grandchildren.