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Elvin C. Stakman papers

Identifier: ua-01017

Scope and Content

The collection documents the life and career of Elvin Charles Stakman, noted plant pathologist, teacher and international agricultural advisor. Of particular interest is the extensive collection of field notes, reports, correspondence, colored maps and photos of wheat rust research and the resultant barberry eradication efforts Stakman lead pre- and post- WWI; teaching materials from Stakman’s career as professor of plant pathology at the University of Minnesota, including seminar notes, student papers and tributes, and bibliographies; and extensive correspondence with plant scientists associated through the Rockefeller Foundation with the “Green Revolution” and with students and agricultural scientists in business and the academy. Also of note is correspondence between Stakman and J.G. Harrar and Stakman and Norman Borlaug. Portion of the correspondence are in Spanish or German, as Stakman was fluent in both languages. Other materials include photographs of Stakman during national and international travel, speeches, conference papers, news clippings, reports, drafts of papers, field notes, notebooks, planners and date books, awards and certificates, an extensive oral history transcription, logs from student seminars and departmental tributes. A segment of student papers from the Plant Pathology seminar are also included.

The collection is arranged into eight series: Series I, Biographical, contains written biographies of Stakman produced over the course of his life and career, as well as a multi-volume transcript of a Stakman oral history conducted by the Rockefeller Foundation. Series II, Correspondence, contains two subseries, Rockefeller-Foundation related correspondence and Personal correspondence. These two subseries retain much of their original arrangement and labeling scheme, although the Personal correspondence section contains information about Stakman’s work and research. As Stakman was consulting with the Rockefeller Foundation during a thirteen year period while he was also head of the University of Minnesota Plant Pathology department, and maintained an office at the University during his long tenure with the Foundation, users may wish to consult both subseries for information about Stakman’s work from 1940 onward. Where-ever possible, correspondence with Norman Borlaug is noted at the folder level in both subseries. Series III, Plant Pathology Department and USDA, contains Stakman’s materials from the Rust Research and Barberry Eradication programs conducted between 1913 and 1922, with additional materials on the Cereal Rust Laboratory; Plant Pathology Course descriptions, syllabi and student papers, and research Stakman conducted on rubber plant cultivation prior to World War II. Series IV, Professional Activities, contains publications from the War Emergency Committee of the American Phytopathological Society, of which Stakman was a prominent member; materials from symposia and professional conferences Stakman attended or participated in, and drafts of speeches Stakman delivered to a variety of professional audiences. Series V contains honoraria and other awards. Series VI contains photos of Stakman taken throughout his career and in various parts of the world. Series VII, Miscellaneous, contains a small collection of papers and notes belonging Stakman’s wife, Louise Jensen Stakman, as well as a retirement citation given to Laura Hamilton, Stakman’s long-time aide and scheduler. Series VIII consists of multiple bound volumes of Stakman’s collected publications.


  • Creation: 1906-1977


Language of Materials

Multiple languages

Language of Materials

Collection materials in English, Spanish, and German

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 Elvin C. Stakman (1885-1979)

Elvin C. Stakman, B.A. (1906), M.A. (1910), Ph.D. (1913) University of Minnesota. Professor (1913-1953) and head of the Department of Plant Pathology (1940-1953), University of Minnesota. United States Department of Agriculture agent, head of the federal government's South American rubber expedition (1940-1941), consultant to the Rockefeller Foundation, member of the executive committee of the National Science Board, delegate to UNESCO, member of the advisory committee for biology and medicine for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (1947-1953). World renowned expert in the field of barberry eradication and cereal rust diseases.

E.C. Stakman was born May 17, 1885 in Algoma, Wisconsin to Frederick and Amelia Stakman. The family moved to Brownton, Minnesota when Stakman was five. When Stakman’s father died in the late 1890s, Stakman, his sister Edna, and his mother moved to St. Paul, where Amelia was employed as a teacher. Stakman graduated from Cleveland High School in East St Paul in 1902 and entered the University of Minnesota that same year. After graduating in 1906 with a degree in science, Stakman pursued a career in education, serving as a teacher, coach and ultimately superintendent of schools in Red Wing, Mankato and Argyle, Minnesota respectively.

Educational methods and philosophy would continue to be a part of Stakman’s professional writing and practice throughout his life, and he would act as a mentor to hundreds of students throughout the course of his long teaching career. Stakman returned to the University of Minnesota in 1909, where he entered the Ph.D. program in Plant Pathology. In 1911, he took a brief leave from the University to apprentice in the US Department of Agriculture, returning to the University to finish his doctorate in 1913. Stakman earned the first doctorate awarded in the University’s fledgling Plant Pathology Department, then titled the Department of Plant Pathology and Agricultural Botany. During the same year he became an Assistant Professor in the Department headed by his mentor and advisor Dr. E.M. Freeman.

In 1914, Stakman began his long professional association with the United States Department of Agriculture, heading rust epidemiology studies in the USDA Lab, and serving there in consultative capacities until 1955.

Appointed Instructor in Plant pathology in 1909, Stakman became Head of the Plant Pathology section in 1913. In addition to his classroom teaching, Stakman embarked on research that would define his career and influence two generations of plant scientists. In 1917, Stakman and several other scientists and field workers traveled to the American west and south to record the life cycle of wheat rusts. In 1918, Stakman was appointed by the US Department of Agriculture to head a national program aimed at eradicating the Common Barberry bush. The bush was critical to rust reproduction, and Stakman was charged with overseeing both the field component of eradication and public information about the initiative. Stakman continued to research, write and speak on wheat rust throughout his career, and it was listening to a Stakman lecture on wheat rust entitled “The Shifting Enemy” that influenced Norman Borlaug to switch from Forestry to Plant Pathology as his research focus in order to study with Stakman.

During his tenure at the University, Stakman traveled extensively as a visiting professor and consultant. In 1930, Stakman began a decade-long association with the Firestone Company. Stakman visited Liberia, and later northwestern South America surveying land and assessing the viability of reestablishing rubber plantations in their native environment. In 1941, Stakman joined the Rockefeller Foundation Survey Commission to study Mexican corn and wheat crops. The Commission’s findings and recommendations would lead to the establishment of the Mexican Agriculture Program (MAP) that formed the foundation for “Green Revolution” plant breeding practices. In the US, Stakman organized the Federal Cereal Rust Laboratory and participated in the establishment of International Rust Nurseries. Stakman was also appointed to the Atomic Energy Commissions Advisory Committee for Biology and Medicine from 1947-1953.

After retiring from the University in 1953 as professor emeritus, Stakman was hired by the Rockefeller Foundation as a Special Consultant for Agriculture, where he worked on science research and education institution-building. Stakman’s travels took him repeatedly to South Asia, East Asia, Europe, Central and South America, South Africa and Europe throughout the 1950s through the 1970s. E.C. Stakman authored over 300 scholarly articles and held a numerous offices in scientific organizations. He served in every significant position in the American Phytopathological Society, including President in 1922 and Associate Editor and Editor in Chief of the Association journal, Phytopathology, from 1916 to 1929. In 1948, he was elected president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and served on the board of the National Science Foundation from 1950-1954 and as a member of the Atomic Energy Commission 1948-1954.

He received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Halle-Wittenberg, Yale, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Cambridge (England), and numerous honorary memberships in learned societies in the United States and abroad. In an appreciation of Stakman, published in 1979, a colleague noted that Stakman’s career was composed of three distinct facets: “…He was a superb scientific investigator; later he was a [powerful] teacher; and finally he was an international humanitarian.” (R.R. Nelson, Aurora Sporialis, May 17, 1979). The University of Minnesota recognized Stakman’s influence on the University and the field of plant pathology by naming the building housing Plant Pathology on the St Paul Campus Stakman Hall. The E.C. Stakman Award is given to a scientist from any country for achievement in plant pathology in the areas of teaching, research, outreach or international development.

Charles Elvin Stakman died in St Paul at the age of 93 on January 22nd, 1979.


21 boxes (21.5 cubic feet)


The collection contains the papers of Elvin C. Stakman, professor emeritus and chair of the Division of Plant Pathology and Botany at the University of Minnesota.


The collection is grouped into the following series:

  1. Biographical
  2. Correspondence
  3. Plant Pathology Department
  4. Professional Activities
  5. Awards and Honoraria
  6. Photographs
  7. Publications
  8. Miscellaneous

Source of acquisition

The Elvin C. Stakman papers were transferred to University Archives by the Department of Plant Pathology.

Related Materials in University Archives

The Elvin C. Stakman 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

John S. Niederhauser papers

John Gibler papers

Helen Hart 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.

Elvin C. Stakman papers, 1918-1973
Susan Hoffman
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University Archives Collecting Area