Distinguished Professor Emeritus Charles B. Heiser Jr. died on June 11, 2010. Heiser was born in Cynthiana, Ind., in 1920. He earned his AB (1942) and MA (1943) from Washington University in St. Louis, and his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1947.
Heiser joined the Indiana University faculty as an assistant professor of botany in the same year that he earned his doctorate, working his way up to distinguished professor in 1979, and retiring in 1986. A renowned ethnobotanist, Heiser was a leading authority on Helianthus (sunflowers). His early studies with sunflowers led to his interest in natural hybridization and its evolutionary significance, as well as the origin of domesticated plants and agriculture. Heiser went on to become an authority on several other plants of economic importance including naranjillas, chili peppers, gourds, and totora.
Heiser was very active after retirement, continuing to write and further his research. Heiser was president of several key organizations, including American Society of Plant Taxonomists; Society for the Study of Evolution; Society for Economic Botany; and the Botanical Society of America. His honors include the Guggenheim Fellowship; Gleason Award of the New York Botanical Garden; Merit Award and Centennial Award of the Botanical Society of America; Distinguished Economic Botanist from the Society of Economic Botany; Pustovoit Award from the International Sunflower Association; the Asa Gray Award from the American Society of Plant Taxonomists; Distinguished Scholar Award from the Indiana Academy of Science; and the Raven Award presented by the American Society of Plant Taxonomists. Heiser was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1987.