Open main menu

Paul Christoph Mangelsdorf (born in Atchison, Kansas on July 20, 1899; died July 22, 1989) was an American botanist and agronomist.[1]

His father was a Prussian immigrant and his mother was also German. He studied at Kansas State University when it was still the "Kansas State Agricultural College"[2] and received his bachelor's degree there in 1921. In 1921 he became Donald F. Jones's assistant in Connecticut and simultaneously furthered his studies at Harvard University, attaining his doctorate in 1925 under the direction of E. M. East. In 1927 Mangelsdorf became a researcher at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, where he became interested in the genetic origins of maize. In 1940 he became a professor of economic botany at Harvard and continued his research there until his retirement in 1968. After his retirement, he continued his research at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.[3]

Mangelsdorf is noted for studying the origins and hybridization of maize. Hence he co-wrote the book The Origin of Indian Corn and Its Relatives with Robert G. Reeves. They worked on a "Tripartite theory" of origin.[4] According to the horticultural authority Noel Kingsbury, this theory enjoyed broad support on the strength of Mangelsdorf's "undisputed... reign as the international emperor of corn." However, advances in molecular genetics discredited the tripartite model in favor of the rival position of George Beadle, which identified corn as a domesticated offspring of teosinte.[5]

Mangelsdorf was in 1951 the president of the American Society of Naturalists,[6] in 1955 the president of the Genetics Society of America,[7] and in 1962 the president of the Society for Economic Botany.[8]


  1. ^ Fowler, Gene (28 July 1989). "Paul Mangelsdorf, Botanist, 90; Tracked Corn to Primitive Maize". NY Times.
  2. ^ Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 135, No. 3 (Sep., 1991), pp. 469-472
  3. ^ Birchler, James A. (2014). "Paul Christoph Mangelsdorf, 1899–1989: A Biographical Memoir" (PDF). National Academy of Sciences.
  4. ^ A Lifetime in the Quest for the Origins of Corn* by Surinder M. Seghal" in Maize Genetics and Breeding in the 20th Century edited by Peter A. Peterson, Angelo Bianchi
  5. ^ Kingsbury, Noel (2009). Hybrid: The History and Science of Plant Breeding. University of Chicago Press.
  6. ^ Past Officers of the ASN
  7. ^ Past and Present GSA Officers, Genetics Society of America
  8. ^ Society Officers, Soc. for Economic Botany
  9. ^ IPNI.  Mangelsd.