April 19, 2004
Harry Beevers, eminent plant physiologist, dies at 80
By Tim Stephens
Harry Beevers, one of the leading plant physiologists of the 20th century
and a professor emeritus of biology at UCSC, died on April 14. He was
80. Beevers died at his home in Carmel, California, after a brief illness.
Born in Durham, England, in 1924, Beevers earned a B.Sc. in botany and
a Ph.D. in plant physiology from Durham University. After a postdoctoral
appointment at Oxford University, he joined the faculty of Purdue University
in 1950. Beevers spent 19 years at Purdue, becoming a naturalized U.S.
citizen in 1958. He joined the UCSC faculty in 1969 as a professor of
Beevers made major contributions to the understanding of plant metabolism
and plant cell biology. He and his coworkers worked out important pathways
of plant metabolism and showed the locations of key enzymes for the conversion
of fats to carbohydrates in fatty seed tissues. His discovery of the glyoxysome,
a small structure or organelle within some plant cells, led others to
discover similar organelles called leaf peroxisomes, and stimulated further
understanding of the role of peroxisomes in animals.
"Harry Beevers was one of the giants in the field of plant metabolism,
one of only a handful of biochemists who could claim to have discovered
a new cellular organelle," said Lincoln Taiz, professor of professor
of molecular, cell, and developmental biology at UCSC and a friend of
"He was also a charismatic leader in the field of plant biology
whose opinions always carried great weight in any debate. To me, he was
a mentor and role model, someone I admired tremendously," Taiz said.
Much of Beevers's research focused on the metabolism of the germinating
castor bean, which efficiently converts the oil in its seed to sugar.
No mammalian cell is capable of this conversion. In castor beans, enzymes
in the glyoxysomes convert oil into sugar to provide energy for the growing
seedling during germination, after which the organelles disappear. The
glyoxysome turned out to be the first of a new class of similar plant
organelles called microbodies.
Beevers also investigated other kinds of plant organelles, other aspects
of plant metabolism, and the transport of materials within and between
plant cells. He wrote more than 200 research papers and one book, Respiratory
Metabolism in Plants (Harper, 1961).
In addition to his research, Beevers was widely appreciated as a mentor
to young biologists and a brilliant lecturer who could electrify an audience
with his eloquence and wit. Many of his students and postdoctoral fellows
went on to become leaders in the field. He enjoyed teaching, and his courses
at UCSC received rave reviews from students.
UCSC honored Beevers as the Faculty Research Lecturer in 1976. In 1991,
a special symposium of the American Society of Plant Biologists was held
in his honor at UC Riverside. In 1999, Purdue University recognized Beevers
in its "Book of Great Teachers," a permanent wall display in
the Purdue Memorial Union.
A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy
of Arts and Sciences, Beevers received numerous honors and awards, including
honorary doctorates from Purdue, the University of Nagoya in Japan, and
the University of Newcastle on Tyne in England. In 1995, Oxford University
named a building in his honor, the Harry Beevers Laboratory in the Plant
In the early 1960s, Beevers served as president of the American Society
of Plant Physiologists. He won the organization's Stephen Hales Prize
in 1970 and its Charles Reid Barnes Life Membership Award in 1999.
Beevers is survived by his wife of 54 years, Jean Beevers of Carmel;
son Michael Beevers of Fresno; sisters Win Allinson of Ripon, England,
Edna Emerson of Weardale, England, Elsie Chapman of Portsmouth, England,
and Vera West of Canterbury, England; brothers Alec Beevers of Stourbridge,
England, and Leonard Beevers of Norman, Oklahoma; one granddaughter, Angela;
eight nieces and six nephews.
No services have been scheduled as yet. Contributions in memory of Harry
Beevers may be made to the UCSC Arboretum, 1156 High St., Santa Cruz,