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Helen Hart papers

Identifier: ua-00223

Scope and Content

The collection contains reports, charts, and maps related to Dr. Hart's research on plant rusts. It is primarily in the form of annual reports summarizing rust spore data across the United States. The data appears to have been collected as field notes for over three decades by F.E. Haglund, and transferred by Hart first to a paper draft, and then to typescript. Dates covered are primarily for the 1920s and 1930s, with some data for the 1950s, and little for the 1940s. There is also a Xeroxed manuscript with editorial comments by E.C. Stakman providing a history of the Barberry eradication program initiated by Stakman in the 1920s. Folder titles have been taken directly from the originals, and the original order has been maintained.


  • Creation: 1917-1953

Language of Materials

Collection material in English

Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Requests to publish should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives.

Biographical Sketch of Helen Hart (1900-1971)

Helen Hart, B.S. (1922), M.S. (1925), Ph.D., 1929, University of Minnesota. Instructor (1933-1939), assistant professor (1939), associate professor (1944), professor (1947-1966) in plant pathology at the University of Minnesota. Joint appointment with the United States Department of Agriculture (1923-1933); editor-in-chief, Phytopathology (1944-1951), president, American Phytopathological Society (1955). Pioneer in the use of controlled environments to study host-pathogen relationships.

Helen Hart was born September 2, 1900 in Janesville, Wisconsin to Richard and Alice Hart. She graduated from high school in 1918, and enrolled at Lawrence College (now Lawrence University). In 1920, she transferred to the University of Minnesota, thus beginning a professional relationship with the University that covered 46 years, culminating in her retirement as Professor Emerita in 1966.

A commemorative article (“Helen Hart, Remarkable Plant Pathologist, 1900-1971” by Roy Wilcoxson Annual Review of Phytopathology1996 34: 13-23) includes reminiscences by former colleagues. According to the article, Hart informed her professors in the Plant Pathology and Botany Department of her interest in continuing her botany studies after graduation and was initially discouraged by E.C. Stakman from entering the field because of his concern that women scientists would not be fairly compensated for their work. Hart applied for admission to the graduate program while Stakman was traveling out of the country, and was admitted by Professor Julian Leach in his absence. Hart began the program in 1922, and in 1923 was hired as an agent for the Office of Cereal Crops and Diseases, a USDA program. Hart’s work in that office and in the classroom kept her in continuous contact with Stakman, who would become first her advisor, and later a good friend and colleague. Stakman’s research focused on the role fungi played in plant diseases, and Hart began her graduate research career focusing on flax rust. Her Ph.D. thesis, “Morphological and Physiological Studies on Stem Rust Resistance in Wheat” explored stem rust resistance and susceptibility in wheat rust tissues. She was awarded her Ph.D. in 1929. Hart and her advisees were pioneers in the use of controlled environments to study host-pathogen relationships. Her work is now considered fundamental to the understanding of pathogen specialization and cultivar resistance.

Beginning in 1945, Hart chaired the Department’s Language and Editorial Committees. As such, she oversaw the department’s required reading exam, where she was an exacting teacher and editor. She was also the editor for Aurora Sporealis, the alumni magazine of the Department of Plant Pathology during the 1930s and 1940s.

Hart served as an Associate Editor for Phytopathology, the principle publication of APS from 1938-1940. In 1944, she became the first woman Editor-in-Chief of Phytopathology, a position she held until 1951. Hart became President-Elect of APS in 1954 and the first woman President of the Society in 1955. She was awarded the Department of Plant Pathology’s EC Stakman Award in 1963 for her contributions to the understanding of cereal rust disease, and shortly thereafter became a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Helen Hart died in Oregon on May 2, 1971, where she had moved in 1970 to live with her sister Jane.


1.25 box (1 box)


The collection contains summary notes of rust reports undertaken by F.E. Haglund and summarized by Helen Hart, as well a several folders of typed citations constituting a literature review of rust-related publications. Also included is a xeroxed copy of Robert Bills manuscript on barberry eradication, entitled “One Half Century of Service: The first fifty years of Barberry eradication” with notes and commentary by E.C. Stakman.

Source of acquisition

The collection was deposited in University Archives on September 16, 1988.

Related Materials in University Archives

The Helen Hart papers are one of several collections held by the University of Minnesota that document the development of agricultural practices that were central to the Green Revolution, including

Norman Borlaug papers

Elvin C. Stakman papers

John S. Niederhauser papers

John Gibler papers

Cereal Rust Laboratory records

Department of Plant Pathology records

Processing Information

Collection processed by Susan Hoffman with funds from the College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) and individual donors. Digitization funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.

Helen Hart Papers, 1917-1953
Susan Hoffman
April 2010
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University Archives Collecting Area