ITHACA, N.Y. -- There is fungus among us.
George Hudler, a Cornell University professor of plant pathology, tells all about it in his new, mycological book, "Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds (Princeton University Press, $29.95)," the story of the fungus kingdom and its impact on humanity.
Some 30 years ago, in a University of Minnesota lecture-and-lab class on forest pathology, young Hudler's professor sternly warned errant students of a local tavern's shortcomings: "It's not the beer that will get you," he said. "It's those free peanuts; they are loaded with mold that makes one of the most potent carcinogens known to man. Your liver just can't take such abuse forever." Hudler munched popcorn instead .
Then there was the professor's warning on the foot bath at the university swimming pool: "The damn thing's a cesspool of pathogenic fungi. If you want a good case of athlete's foot, that's the place to wallow." Hudler turned to ice hockey.
Finally, the professor described how a woman at a faculty party found herself falling through an upstairs bathroom floor, only seconds after the floor joists gave way: Fungi in the moist bathroom had hastened the joists' demise.
Soon after the stirring introductory lecture, Hudler found himself peering into microscopes, fascinated by fungi, and he's been having fungi fun ever since.
For 10 years, Hudler has been teaching one of Cornell's most popular courses,
Plant Pathology 201, better known as "Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds."
More than 2,000 students have taken the class in the past decade, and last
spring alone 300 students enrolled. The class was featured a few years ago in
"Rolling Stone" magazine. And in 1996, the State University of New York
bestowed on Hudler a Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching, citing his
ability to teach students how microorganisms interact with plants, and how fungi
and mold have impacted social and political structure throughout the cours
Contact: Blaine P. Friedlander, Jr.
Cornell University News Service