Ian Sussex, Influential Plant Development Biologist, Is Dead at 88

June 02, 2015

A Remembrance Gathering will be held 11 a.m., June 13 at Yale University.

Ian Sussex

Ian Sussex. Photo courtesy of the New Haven Register.

Ian Sussex, a professor emeritus of plant biology at the University of California, Berkeley, considered one of the most influential plant developmental biologists of the 20th century, died Monday, May 10th, 2015, in New Haven, CT. He was 88.

Sussex is most noted for co‐authoring with Taylor Steeves the influential book, Patterns in Plant Development, first published in 1972.

Sussex was born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1927. He was most recently a senior research scientist and lecturer in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University. From 1960 to 1990 he was on the faculty of the Biology Department of Yale University. Previously he was a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh, and Victoria University, New Zealand.

Sussex graduated B.Sc. and M.Sc. from Auckland University College, New Zealand, and obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Manchester, Great Britain, where he worked with CW Wardlaw performing experimental investigations on the shoot apex. He carried out post‐doctoral studies at Harvard University, and the Agricultural Research Center, Versailles, France. At Harvard he worked with Ralph Wetmore and Kenneth Thimann studying auxin physiology.

Sussex was part of a vanguard of developmental botanists who appreciated the importance of tissue culture methodology as a tool for dissecting developmental processes, including embryogenesis and determination in shoot meristems.

Sussex joined the newly established Department of Plant Biology at UC Berkeley on July 1, 1990. He was instrumental in the establishment of the National Science Foundation Center for Plant Developmental Biology in the College of Natural Resources, directed a thriving research lab in Koshland Hall, and mentored a large number of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, many of whom went on to become prominent plant developmental biologists.

While at Berkeley he co‐taught a number of courses including Cell and Developmental Biology of Plants and Functional Plant Anatomy. Sussex retired from UC Berkeley on June 30, 1997, and moved back to Connecticut, where he rejoined Yale University as scientist and lecturer.

Sussex is survived by his wife, Nancy Kerk. A memorial for Sussex will be held at 11 a.m. on June 13, in the Marsh Botanical Garden at Yale University. 

Read the New Haven Register obituary.