At the close of the academic year in June, 1941, Dr. R. A. Emerson will have reached the age of retirement for university professors and will officially set down his old box of records after 27 years of service to Cornell University. Actually his corn genetics investigations began at Nebraska about 1911, so the present summer will mark over 30 years of research on maize. It seems highly proper at this time for The News Letter to call to the attention of the cooperators the services which Dr. Emerson has rendered to genetics in general, and to Maize Genetics Cooperation in particular.
One of his outstanding accomplishments in this long period has of course been his highly productive research in the field of maize genetics. A long series of publications testifies to his activity here. Younger men who are working with maize should remember that they have more tools to work with and they.can go farther because of the foundation laid by R. A. Emerson. His researches would stand as a signal contribution even if he had done nothing else in the advancement of science.
Most men in university positions have an opportunity to influence students, to stimulate their interest in research and to instill in them certain ideals. The list of graduate students who have majored with R. A. Emerson and gone on to important positions in science is an impressive one. Many of these men are still corn geneticists, as they were in their graduate-student days, and most of them are maize cooperators along with us. One man retires, but several dozen carry on the work, with much of the same industry and high regard for the scientific approach.
By the late 1920's, the number of corn geneticists had grown considerably. Dr. Emerson began about that time to get these men together in his hotel room at the time of the A.A.A.S. meetings for so-called 'cornfabs'. These informal meetings served to keep the corn workers informed on what others were doing and helped them to plan for the future. They were the beginnings of Maize Genetics Cooperation. Not only has our own organization grown from these informal meetings, but corn geneticists have set an example in mutual confidence and cooperation which has been copied by several other groups.
We think that we are safe in saying that R. A. Emerson was the first to call the attention of plant geneticists to the advantages of the maize plant for genetic research, and that he did much to stimulate the present widespread interest in this plant. His writings have probably "converted" a number who did not come more directly under his influence as a teacher. When you stop to think of it, he has done a thorough job. He has made many excellent contributions of his own, he has trained graduate students to "carry on", he has stimulated wide interest in corn genetics, and finally, he has insured, for sometime at least, the maintenance of maize stocks and a cooperation in maize research. These things will have far-reaching effects.
But this is not a eulogy. There seems to be "plenty of mileage in the old car yet". and the old record box still holds cards. The Dean of our Agricultural College has promised that office and garden space will still be available for Dr. Emerson's use, and perhaps if our New York winters get too monotonously disagreeable, southern California or Florida will come to the rescue.
Dr. Emerson, as the Maize Genetics Cooperation News Letter goes to press, your fellow cooperators take off their old straw hats to you in affectionate regard. We wish you years of real enjoyment in doing the things you most want to do.