|Born||3 April 1898
|Died||4 June 1997
Santa Barbara, California
|Notable awards||National Medal of Science (1989)|
Early life and education
Esau was born in Yekaterinoslav, Russian Empire (now Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine) to a family of Mennonites of German descent. She began studying agriculture in Moscow, but after a year her family was prompted by the Bolshevik Revolution to move to Germany where she completed her studies at the Agricultural College of Berlin. The Esau family moved to California in 1922, where Esau worked in agriculture until she resumed her education at University of California, Davis where she achieved her doctorate in 1931.
Esau was a pioneering plant anatomist and her books Plant Anatomy and Anatomy of Seed Plants have been key plant structural biology texts for four decades. Her early work in plant anatomy focused the effect of viruses on plants, specifically on plant tissue and development. Esau worked at Davis as a teacher and later a professor of Botany. While teaching, she continued her research on viruses and specifically phloem, the food conducting tissue in plants. In the 1950s, she collaborated with botanist Vernon Cheadle on more phloem research. She moved to the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1963, and worked there until 1992. She also served as a member of the National Academy of Sciences; she was the sixth woman elected to it in 1957. Esau continued her research well into her 90s, publishing 162 articles and five books.
In memory of her contributions as a lecturer, author and scientist, the Katherine Esau Award is awarded to the graduate student who presents the best paper in structural and developmental biology at the annual meeting of the Botanical Society of America.
Many of Esau's publications are housed and available for loan from the Cornelius Herman Muller library at the University of California, Santa Barbara's Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration.
- Esau, Katherine (1977) Anatomy of Seed Plants, John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 0-471-24520-8
- Evert, Ray. "Katherine Esau". Biographical Memoirs. National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 15 October 2013.
- "Dr. Esau's family is Mennonite. Dr. Esau's great-grandfather Aron Esau immigrated to the Ukraine in 1804 from Prussia." Evert, Ray F. (October 1985) "Katherine Esau: address given by President-Elect Ray F. Evert, University of Wisconsin" Plant Science Bulletin 31(5):
- "Guide to the Katherine Esau Papers". University of California, Santa Barbara.
- National Science Foundation – The President's National Medal of Science
- "The Katherine Esau Award". Botanical Society of America. Retrieved 15 October 2013.
- Freeman, Karen (18 June 1997). "Katherine Esau Is Dead at 99; A World Authority on Botany". The New York Times.
- Evert, Ray F., Eichhorn, Susan E., Esau's Plant Anatomy: Meristems, Cells, and Tissues of the Plant Body: Their Structure, Function, and Development, John Wiley & Sons, (2006), ISBN 0-470-04737-2
- O'Hern, Elizabeth Moot (1985) "Katherine Esau" Profiles of Pioneer Women Scientists Acropolis Books, Washington, D.C. ISBN 0-87491-811-1
- Stebbins, G.L. 1999. Katherine Esau (3 April 1898 – 4 June 1997). Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 143
- Katherine Esau papers at The Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration (CCBER) at the University of California, Santa Barbara