Irish Potato Famine
Originally published 05/21/2013
An international team of scientists has finally solved one of history’s greatest mysteries: What caused the devastating Irish potato famine of 1845? The research team, which published its findings in the journal eLife this week, used DNA sequencing of plant specimens dating from the mid-19th century to identify the pathogen that led to the death of nearly 1 million people and the mass emigration of another 2 million from Ireland by 1855. The discovery marks the first time scientists have successfully sequenced a plant’s genome from preserved samples and opens the door for further research into the evolution of pathogens and the spread of plant disease around the world.
Originally published 03/18/2013
Carlow, Ireland — Ewen Mullins is the face of modern Ireland: Young, cosmopolitan, highly educated, he is a plant scientist whose work on a genetically modified potato inherently looks to the future. But Mullins also must think back to one of Ireland’s darkest chapters, the Great Famine of the 1840s.“It’s always there,” he said. “It’s not something we forget or something we should be allowed to forget.”From his laboratory and greenhouse in a research farm outside Carlow, 42-year-old Mullins deals daily with a disease that not only afflicts his native land but haunts it: the potato blight, a pernicious rot caused by a fungus that still thrives in Ireland’s wet, cold climate....