298 Biographical Memoirs Dickwasproudof hisancestorsandrelatives.Hisgreat-great-grandfather,RichardDavis (orDavies),wasbornatPiddletrenthide,Dorset,in1790andmigratedtoNewZealandasa farmer-missionary in 1824. Davis’s eldest daughter, Mary Ann, married Joseph Matthews, a catechist who left his home village of Deddington in Oxfordshire, England, in 1831 to teach Christianitytothenativesof NewZealand.BothDavisandMatthewswerelaterordainedto theministry.Abrother,RichardMatthews,whohadtriedunsuccessfullytobringChristianity to the Patagonians, reached New Zealand in 1835 on HMS Beagle with Captain Robert FitzRoyandCharlesDarwin,andsettledthere.Indeed,duringtheBeagle’sstopintheBayof Islands, Davis and Joseph Matthews met Darwin, who had walked on the day before ChristmastoWaimate,wheretheChurchMissionarySocietyhadboughtsomelandandput Davisinchargeof farmingit.Darwinwasimpressedbythiswell-orderedsettlement,andhis visittoWaimateseemstohavebeenthehighlightof histimeinNewZealand(Darwin1839).
Richard Ellis Ford Matthews 299 Having decided to go to university, Dick entered Auckland University College in 1938, studyingbotany,chemistryandzoologyforaBSc.Hewasunimpressedbyhisteachers,except for the organic chemist L.H. Briggs, who was one of the few active research workers in the Faculty.Indeed,butfortheproblemof findingfinancialsupport,Dickwouldprobablyhave taken chemistry. Dick’s problem was solved by Cunningham, who had become the first Director of the DSIR Plant Diseases Division, which was just moving to Mt Albert.
300 Biographical Memoirs AgriculturalResearchCouncilVirusResearchUnit(VRU)attheMoltenoInstitute,wherehis supervisor was the eminent plant virologist Kenneth M. Smith, F.R.S. However, in the laboratory he was more strongly influenced by Roy Markham (F.R.S. 1956), another VRU staff member.Hetookcoursesin,forexample,biochemistryandbacteriologytoimprovehis scientific knowledge, and worked to apply biological and serological techniques to the detection, identification and quantitative assay of various plant viruses, especially potato virusXandturnipyellowmosaicvirus(TYMV).ForDickitwasacrucialperiodinwhichhis fascination for plant viruses was consolidated and his eyes were opened to the promise that modernbiochemicalapproacheswouldrevolutionizeknowledgeaboutthem.
Richard Ellis Ford Matthews 301 ‘Kiwi’ approach contrasted with that of some immigrant scientists who had been recruited from Englandintheimmediatepostwarperiod,anditappealedtotheemergingbreedof studentsatthat time,whenthe‘colonialcringe’wasfastdisappearing.IfirstmetDickwhenIwasathird-yearstudent, andhehadagreedtorunapracticalandlecturecourseonplantvirusesforbotanystudents.Itwasa tourdeforceof thecurrent(1958)technologies.WeusedthethenverynewandonlyavailableSpinco ultracentrifugetopurifyvirusparticles;wedeterminedthebasecompositionof theirnucleicacidsby paper chromatography and paper electrophoresis; we obtained the absorption spectrum of each nucleotide using the newly purchased spectrophotometer; and we examined preparations of virus particles in the analytical ultracentrifuge acquired by Dick with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.Forstudentsraisedonnaturalhistoryandsystematicsitwasarevelation,andourfirst indicationthat‘stateoftheart’sciencecouldbedoneinAuckland.
302 Biographical Memoirs that he might contribute foundation courses in microbiology for the proposed Medical School, he was somewhat alarmed as this was certainly contrary to his vision of the department as something approaching a graduate research school. His response was the astutedecisiontochangethenameof thedepartmentfromMicrobiologytoCellBiology,an eventthatoccurredjustbeforethemovetospaciousmodernaccommodationintheThomas Building on the main campus, where it continued to thrive. During Dick’s time, the department’s personnel increased in number from four to eighty, and its scientific output amountedtosevenvolumesof researchpaperspublishedupto1988.
Richard Ellis Ford Matthews 303 R Virusdiagnosisandserology Dick Matthews’s earliest research in New Zealand had concerned the recognition of various naturally occurring plant virus diseases, and simple properties of their causal agents. In his postgraduate studies at Cambridge he soon became convinced of the power of serological methods for virus detection and assay, and for assessing relationships between isolates. He usedserologicalteststoclarifythestatusof isolatesof potatovirusXandobtainedevidence thattherelationshipshedetectedparalleledthoseindicatedbycross-protectiontests.Previous infectionwithanyonevirusisolatemadeplantsresistanttotheeffectsof other,subsequently inoculated, isolates that were closely related serologically, but only partially resistant to isolatesthatweremoredistantlyrelated(3).
304 Biographical Memoirs Very soon after Dick’s first paper on AZG, Commoner & Mercer (1951) showed that TMV replication in tobacco leaf discs was strongly inhibited by floating them, a day after inoculation, on a solution of the pyrimidine analogue 2-thiouracil (2TU), and that the inhibition was partly reversed by uracil. It was soon established that the inhibitory effects of AZGand2TUdependedbothonthevirusandonthehost,andthatbothcompoundswere phytotoxic at higher concentrations (6). These findings alerted chemical companies to the possibilityof viralchemotherapy.AfterDick’sreturntoCambridge,hediscoveredthatAZG wasincorporatedintoTMVRNA,substitutingforabout4%of theguaninenormallypresent (7),whereasJeener&Rosseels(1953),workinginBelgium,detectedsomewhatlargeramounts of 2TUinTMVRNAinplaceof uracil.Dick’sresultsindicatedthat2TU-containingTMV caused fewer local lesions in inoculated leaves (usually about half) than the same concentrationof controlTMV,leadinghimtosuggestthatsomeof theanalogue-containing particles were non-infective (8). This hypothesis is probably an over-simplification, as indicated by the work of Dick’s colleagues at Cambridge, Dunn & Smith (1954). They reported that particles of the bacteriophage T2r, in which most of the thymine normally present was replaced by the inhibitor 5-bromouracil, nevertheless looked normal and had about30%of thespecificinfectivityof controlvirus,eventhoughtheinhibitorwassupplied to host bacteria both before and after inoculation, making it likely that every T2r particle contained5-bromouracil.Dunn&Smithproposedthattheinhibitordidnotinactivatevirus particlesthatcontaineditbutdecreasedtheprobabilitythattheywouldinitiateaninfection.