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Il Socio Martelli, esperto di Virologia vegetale, mancato nel 2020 in un ricordo recente


Giovanni Paolo Martelli passed away on 8 January 2020 [1], nine days short of his 85th birthday. Giovanni was a brilliant scientist of great integrity and honor. He was born in Palermo, Sicily, Italy, on 17 January 1935. After attending high school in Bari, Puglia (Apulia), Italy, he enrolled at the University of Bari, from which he graduated cum laude in Agricultural Sciences in 1956. In 1957, he joined the University of Catania, Sicily, Italy, for eight months as a Voluntary Assistant of Plant Pathology and a Fellow of CNR (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche [the National Research Council]). He joined the University of Bari in 1958 as a Volunteer Assistant Plant Pathologist and rose through the professional ranks, achieving the rank of Full Professor in 1973 [2]. In 1975, Giovanni and Ahmed first met during Giovanni’s one-day visit to the Plant Virology Laboratory, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Beltsville, Maryland, and their friendship flourished for 45 years.

At the beginning of his scientific career, Giovanni had acquired highly significant knowledge of Plant Pathology. In the 1950s, he investigated the biology and control of plant pathogenic fungi that infect olive trees, grapevine, fruit and vegetable crops, and described new micromycetes and diseases [2]. At a young age, he immediately realized the importance of international exchange and collaboration for scientific and cultural advancement. As a result, Giovanni spent sabbaticals at the Institute of Botany, University of Liverpool, England, UK (1960); the Department of Plant Pathology, University of California (UC), Davis, CA, USA (1961–1963); and the Scottish Crop Research Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee, Scotland, UK (1964). His sabbatical at UC, Davis represented a scientific turning point: working under the supervision of the internationally renowned Dr. William B. Hewitt, who is known as the father of grapevine virology, Giovanni gained knowledge and experience in grapevine viruses and virus diseases and developed great interest in plant virology [2]. In 1958, Dr. Hewitt discovered nematode transmission of the soil-borne grapevine fanleaf virus [3]. Consequently, at Davis, Giovanni also studied agricultural nematology, and was among the initiators of research on the Italian nematode family Longidoridae. Upon his return to the Institute of Plant Pathology at Bari in 1963, Giovanni established the Plant Virology Laboratory to study viruses and virus diseases of economically important vegetable plants, as well as grapevines and fruit trees such as citrus, stone fruit, olive and fig. The Plant Virology Laboratory quickly became nationally and internationally eminent under Giovanni’s leadership.

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