Katherine Esau was a botanist who grew up in Russia and Germany before immigrating to the U.S. in 1922. During her time in the U.S., Esau worked at a company studying sugar beet reactions to a virus before going to school at the University of California, Davis to obtain her doctorate. Esau stayed at UCD throughout her career where she was a pioneer in the study of plant anatomy. She wrote two books that have become seminal works in plant structural biology: Plant Anatomy and Anatomy of Seed Plants. Throughout her career, her research focused on how plant viruses affected the food conducting tissue (phloem) and plant development.
Esau was nationally recognized for her work with phloem, and was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and was awarded the National Medal of Science by President George H.W. Bush. Esau has also had awards named in her honor, including the award given annually at the Botanical Society of America to a graduate student who is carrying forward the field of structural and developmental biology.
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