Burton Yoshiaki Endo

Rev. 01/01/2020



A native of Castroville, California, Burton Y. Endo received his B.S. in Horticulture from Iowa State College in 1951.  After a two-year period of military service, he entered North Carolina State University and received the M.S. degree in Horticulture with a minor in Plant Pathology in 1955.  Dr. Endo continued his graduate studies at North Carolina State University, receiving a Ph.D. degree in 1958.  While in pursuit of his doctoral degree, Dr. Endo was hired by USDA nematologist Al Taylor as an “Agent Nematologist,” with research responsibilities including the first successful use of nematicides to control the soybean cyst nematode. 

After graduate school, Dr. Endo’s entire professional career was with the USDA.  At the USDA facility in Jackson, Tennessee, where he was given the title of Nematologist, Dr. Endo continued his studies of the soybean cyst nematode, initially focusing on its survival at different temperatures and humidities.  Gradually, he began to study the interactions of this nematode with soybean roots.  While in Jackson, he was the first scientist to study the morphological and cellular changes as nematodes develop in both susceptible and resistant soybean roots.

A 15-year-long dream became reality when Dr. Endo was assigned to the Nematology Laboratory at Beltsville in 1963.  There, he took full advantage of the excellent electron microscopy facilities in order to concentrate on the ultrastructure of the interactions between the soybean cyst nematode and soybean roots and the ultrastructure of the development and life cycles of soybean cyst and root-knot nematodes.  Because of the innovation, technical excellence, impeccable detail and clarity of his research, Dr. Endo rapidly achieved international recognition.  He was appointed Chairman of the Plant Protection Institute at Beltsville in 1974, where he coordinated, supervised, and directed the research activities of over 150 research scientists and support staff in plant pathology and entomology.  Under his guidance, Beltsville came to be regarded as an international leader in all areas of plant protection.  Despite his administrative workload, Dr. Endo maintained an active research career, to which he was able to devote greater energy upon his return to the laboratory bench as a full-time researcher in 1987.

He pursued cytochemical and ultrastructural examinations of infection sites of root-knot and cyst nematodes and discovered many tissue and cellular changes in hosts during the infection process.   Dr. Endo made key discoveries about the structure of the nervous, reproductive, digestive, neurosensory, and neurosecretory systems of these species as well as their interactions with resistant and susceptible host plants. Especially outstanding are Dr. Endo's contributions towards an understanding of the function of the root-knot nematode amphid and its role in neurosecretion. He discovered ciliated neural terminals under the anterior cuticle of nematodes, which function as tactoreceptors.  He demonstrated that neurosecretory materials produced by the amphidial gland nerve processes are involved in the formation of a feeding plug at the feeding site of the soybean cyst nematode.  His detailed observations of the stylet in molting soybean cyst nematode juveniles provided the first ultrastructural descriptions of the process of stylet formation.  His detailed observations of the secretory granules in the esophageal glands of root-knot nematodes and of the muscles that control their release are being used by nematologists exploiting the biochemical and physiological aspects of nematode salivary contents.  The current generation of nematologists using molecular biology protocols to discover the precise nature of the complex interactions between nematodes and their host plants usually cite Dr. Endo’s research in their papers; his drawings or micrographs are frequently reproduced.  He retired in 1995 with over 90 research publications.

Dr. Endo has been a member of a number of professional societies, but his major society involvement was with the Society of Nematologists, where he served as Secretary, Vice-President and President.  He was one of the three directors of the Society named on the official Articles of Incorporation.  Dr. Endo is a Fellow of the Society of Nematologists, Fellow of the European Society of Nematologists, an Anniversary Award recipient of the Helminthological Society of Washington, and in 2002 he received the Henry A. Wallace Award from the College of Agriculture of Iowa State University, recognizing his contributions to agriculture. 

 Dr. Burton Y. Endo epitomizes the qualities to be found in an outstanding scientist.  He possesses a strong belief in the value of research as a means to help feed the world and improve the lot of farmers throughout the world.  Without Dr. Endo, U.S. agriculture would be much less closer to solving the problems caused by cyst and root-knot nematodes. 

In 2004, the Society of Nematologists bestowed its highest honor on Dr. Burton Yoshiaki Endo, that of Honorary Member.

Dr. Endo passed away January 4, 2005.

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