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September 15, 1997

Well-known botanist Ernest Ball dies at age 87

By Robert Irion

Dr. Ernest A. Ball, a well-known botanist and a UC professor emeritus of biology who affiliated with the Santa Cruz campus late in his career, died on August 30 in Capitola. He was 87 (photo).

Dr. Ball was regarded as one of the pioneers of plant tissue culture research in a career that spanned 40 years. A native of Oklahoma, Dr. Ball earned his B.S. in 1937 and M.S. in 1938 from the University of Oklahoma and his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in 1941. He spent most of his academic career at North Carolina State University. In 1968 he moved to UC Irvine, serving as a professor of developmental and cell biology until his retirement in 1977. Dr. Ball relocated to Santa Cruz in 1980 to continue an innovative research project on the cloning of redwood trees.

In this project, conducted on campus at Dr. Ball's "Redwood Institute," researchers strove to develop genetically superior coast redwood trees with desirable characteristics, such as rapid growth, trunks free of branches, and tolerance to heat and dry air. The project received much attention in the early 1980s as the first successful tissue culturing of coast redwoods. Today, hundreds of thousands of redwoods developed with Dr. Ball's techniques are reforesting logged hillsides in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties in northern California. Many of his trees also grow in a stand at the UCSC Arboretum, as well as in the Ernest A. Ball Redwood Grove at UC Irvine.

Dr. Ball's family held a gathering for friends and colleagues at the family home in Santa Cruz on September 6. Contributions in his memory can be made to the UCSC Arboretum Associates, of which Dr. Ball was a member.

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