Theodor Otto Diener

U.S. Department of Agriculture
Beltsville, MD
Plant pathologist; Researcher; Educator
Biological Sciences
Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology

Dr. Theodor Otto Diener, a U.S. Department of Agriculture Science Hall of Fame inductee and discoverer of ‘viroids,’ 80 times smaller than the smallest known viruses, published two books, 120 peer-reviewed articles, 53 book chapters and lectured on viroids worldwide.

He graduated from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in 1946. He emigrated to the United States in 1949 and in 1959 he joined the U.S.D.A. Agricultural Research Service Center in Beltsville, Maryland. He is known for his discovery of viroids when he was investigating the cause of the potato spindle tuber disease.

He was the recipient of the National Medal of Science (1987), the Campbell Award of the American Institute Biological Sciences (1968), the American Phytopathological Society fellow award (1973), the Wolf Prize in Agriculture (State of Israel, 1987) and the E.C. Stakman Award (University of Minnesota, 1987).

He was elected as a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (1977), a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1978), the Andrew D. White Professor at Large (Cornell University, 1979), and member of the Leopoldina (German Academy of Sciences, 1980). In 1989, he was inducted into the Science Hall of Fame, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and was named Distinguished Professor at the University of Maryland, and in 1994 was named Distinguished Professor Emeritus there.

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