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Soil microbiologist Martin Alexander dies at 87

-Magdalen Lindeberg

Martin Alexander in 1984

Martin Alexander, emeritus professor in the SIPS Section of Soil and Crop Sciences, died June 25 in Ithaca, NY.  Alexander was renowned for his contributions to environmental science, soil microbiology, and toxicology, authoring or co-authoring over five hundred scientific articles.  Murray McBride, colleague in Soil and Crop Sciences, described Alexander’s scientific legacy. “Dr. Alexander was a world leader in the study of the microbial decomposition of a wide range of xenobiotic chemicals in soils, and the effects of aging on bioavailability of toxins in the soil environment.”

Martin’s commitment to teaching undergraduate students was strong, as was his mentorship of graduate students from around the world, including Eugene Madsen in Cornell’s Department of Microbiology.  He was also renowned internationally for his standard textbook in the field.  Soil microbiologist Dan Buckley, commented, “Martin’s Introduction to Soil Microbiology is an impressive piece of scholarship which has impacted generations of scientists, having been cited more than 5,000 times. His work has stood the test of time and, though our methods have changed dramatically in the intervening decades, his observations remain just as relevant today as when he first made them.”

Born in Newark NJ, Alexander obtained degrees from Rutgers University and the University Wisconsin, beginning his faculty position at Cornell in 1955. He was awarded a Liberty Hyde Baily distinguished professorship in 1977, and retired from Cornell in 2000.   Late-career appointments included the E.P.A. and U.S. Army science advisory boards. He continued consulting for several years following his retirement.

Obituary in the Ithaca Journal

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