John D. Atkin, 1923-1996
John D. Atkin, bean and pea breeder, professor of horticulture, vegetable philosopher, died on Jan 12, 1996. John was a graduate of Utah State University and earned his MS and PhD degrees at the University of California at Davis and at UC Berkeley. His professional career began at Cornell University, Geneva Experiment Station, in 1953; in 1963 he made the leap to private industry as the research director for Keystone Seed Co, and he joined Asgrow Seed Co to breed beans and peas in 1970. His research efforts led to, among other things, a greatly improved understanding of factors that effect the germination of snap bean seeds, the development of mechanical snap bean harvesters, as well as to factors that affect the quality of processed beans. John enjoyed spectacular success as a commercial plant breeder: at the peak of his career the production of pea seed of his varieties totaled 24 million lbs, and sales of his beans topped 15 million. Among his better known and still widely grown varieties are Bolero and Dual peas and BBL 47 and Strike beans. In addition to their commercial success, these varieties proved excellent as germplasm for the development of succeeding generations of the most successful peas and beans.
John was also a wonderful teacher and colleague, and a large measure of any success by the current bean and pea breeders at Asgrow is owed to him. He is survived by his wife Mary, four daughters and a son, 23 grandchildren and two great-grandchilden (and counting).
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