Danforth recognized for his contributions to science

Chancellor Emeritus William H. Danforth, M.D., was presented the 2009 American Society of Plant Biologists Leadership in Science Public Service Award during the annual meeting in Honolulu July 21. The award was presented in recognition of Danforth’s outstanding contributions to science and society.


While Danforth, who serves as chair of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, initially trained as a medical doctor and biochemist, he has maintained a lifelong interest in food, agriculture and sustainability. As chancellor, he urged the establishment of a strong plant biology program in the Department of Biology in Arts & Sciences and raised the University’s national prominence in the field.

Following his retirement as chancellor in 1995, Danforth became the driving force behind the establishment of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, which has vigorously pursued its mission to improve the human condition through plant science. In just one decade, the center has become the largest independent plant science research institute in the world.

It is the centerpiece of an innovative initiative that is applying the most modern scientific and business thinking to the age-old problem of providing food, plant and forestry products to the people of the world in ways that can be sustained for generations to come.

In 2003, Danforth was appointed by then secretary of agriculture, Ann M. Veneman, to chair the Research, Education and Economics Task Force of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which recommended the establishment of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture within the USDA. The mission of this institute, which has been authorized by Congress, is to encourage technological innovations in and enhancements to American agriculture.