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Irving E. Melhus papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: RS 13/5/14

Scope and Content

This collection (1906-2002, undated) contains biographical information, correspondence, research materials, publications, and talks of Dr. Irving E. Melhus. The research materials, publications, and talks focus on corn, potatoes, and rusts. The papers also contain information about the Guatemala Tropical Research Center, which Melhus established and directed. These materials contain reports, photographs, and correspondence relating to the work of the Center.


  • 1906-2002, undated

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Open for research.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

Consult Special Collections and University Archives


Irving E. Melhus was born to Ole and Enger Risting Melhus on April 2, 1881, in Creston, Illinois. He received his B.S. (1906) from Iowa State College (University) and his Ph.D. (1912) in plant pathology from the University of Wisconsin.

He first taught at the Burlington (Iowa) High School (1907). He became an Assistant (1908-1909) and Instructor (1910-1911) at the University of Wisconsin. He worked as a Plant Pathologist (1912-1916) with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Plant Industry. Melhus was appointed Associate Professor (1916-1917) of Plant Pathology at Iowa State College (University) and was promoted to Professor (1917-1951) and Head (1930-1946) of the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology. He also organized and directed the Guatemala Tropical Research Center at Antigua, Guatemala (1946-1953). Melhus was named Emeritus Professor of Plant Pathology in 1952.

Melhus' research interests included studying the diseases of many farm crops and vegetables including corn and other cereal grains, potatoes, and melons. He co-authored a book with G. C. Kent, Elements of Plant Pathology (1937; call number SB731 M484e) which was used as a textbook in plant pathology courses for many years. While directing research at the Guatemala Tropical Research Center, Melhus focused his efforts on studying teosinte, an ancestor of the modern corn plant, for desirable traits that could be crossed with modern corn. His long-term active interest in corn led to a significant improvement in corn grown in Guatemala and Indonesia as well as the United States.

Melhus was a member of several professional and honor societies including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sigma Xi, Phi Kappa Phi, Gamma Sigma Delta, the Botanical Society of America, the Crop Protection Institute, and the American Phytopathological Society (President, 1926).

Irving E. Melhus married Elizabeth Williamson on December 26, 1907. They had two daughters, Sarah (Hoyman) and Janet (Wallin). He died November 10, 1969, in Ames, Iowa.


6.2 Linear Feet (4 records center cartons and 1 oversized box)


The collection is organized into five series:

Series 1, Biographical information, 1915-2002, undated (alphabetical)

Series 2, Correspondence, 1906-1963 (chronological)

Series 3, Research materials, 1945-1961, undated (alphabetical)

Series 4, Publications and talks, 1911-1959, undated (alphabetical)

Series 5, Guatemala Tropical Research Center, 1945-1968, undated (alphabetical)

Items in related collections

RS 13/5. Iowa State University. Department of Botany records, 1886-2014 RS 13/5/6. Iowa State College. Guatemala Tropical Research Center records, 1944-1949, undated

Processing Information

Released on 2018-11-01.

RS 13/5/14. Irving E. Melhus papers, 1906-2002, undated
January 23, 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives Repository

403 Parks Library
701 Morrill Road
Iowa State University
Ames Iowa 50011-2102 United States
(515) 294-6672