A3: Walter Burkholder

Walter Burkholder 1891-1983

Walter Burkholder was an American plant pathologist that received his doctorate of philosophy at Cornell University in 1917 where he was appointed as a position at the university studying just that. The main focus of Burkholder’s studies where bacterial species that were the causative agent of plant pathogens. Burkholder is responsible for expanding bacterial taxonomy and his research and techniques for classifications were profound enough to earn him a position as the phytopathogenic bacterial editor in Bergey’s Manual of Determinative Bacteriology (1). Most of his research yielded more genera of bacteria that were previously listed as one entire genus, he made it his mission to properly classify plant pathogenic bacteria. His most memorable discovery occurred in 1949 with the discovery of Pseudomonas cepacia, later named Burkholderia cepacia after Walter Burkholder, a bacterial pathogen that causes an onion bulb to rot. The Latin meaning of the name is first the founder and then the Latin word for onion caepa or cepa. This finding doesn’t seem very interesting until the effects of this bacteria on humans were documented, pneumonia. Burkholderia cepacia is considered to be one of the most dangerous bacteria because of elevated levels of resistance to treatment in patients with Cystic Fibrosis (2).


Walter Hagemeyer Burkholder, 1891—1983.’ 2008. American Phytopathological Society.

Longitude Team. “10 Most Dangerous Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria.’ 2014. 10 Most Dangerous Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria: Longitude Prize.



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