Who's In A Name 2

WHO’S IN A NAME? :  Ingoldian fungi

by John  Dawson 


             "This installment honors a mycologist for whom an entire class of fungi, not an individual species or genus, is named. 

            Cecil Terence Ingold , born July 5, 1905, died May 31, 2010, five weeks short of 105 years of age.  As one centenary tribute to him noted,[1] “His research interests ... ranged over an exceptionally wide field”, including chytrids, spore discharge mechanisms in asco- and basidiomycetes, smuts, polypores, Entomophthorales, and the remarkable group of aquatic hyphomycetes, now known as Ingoldian fungi, which are primarily responsible for leaf decay and nutrient recycling in streams.  It was he who first recognized the significance of those hyphomycetes, as well as their ubiquitous distribution."


            In 1926 Ingold received an undergraduate degree in botany, with an emphasis on mycology, from Queen’s University in Belfast.  He then spent a year at Imperial College, London, where he took an advanced course devoted equally to mycology and plant physiology. Captivated by the latter subject, he returned to Queens for his Ph.D., which he earned in 1930 with a dissertation on systems in plant sap that buffer against changes in pH.  Nevertheless, he later described the years 1927-30 as “frustrating and sterile”.[2]

            Ingold’s first faculty appointment was at the University of Reading, where he taught more than half of all the courses in the Department of Botany.  Still having “strong leanings toward mycology”, he there met Walter Buddin, who would later serve as treasurer of the British Mycological Society.  It was Budden who introduced him “to the joys of fungal forays” and induced him to join the BMS in 1932.

            In 1937 Ingold moved to University College, Leicester, where he “became excited by the chytrids attacking planktonic algae”.  It was his discovery of one particularly beautiful such chytrid (Endocoenobium eudorinae) that reportedly caused him to specialize thereafter in mycology rather than plant physiology; and the next year, while searching for chytrids in a small brook near his home, he found in the stream scum an “abundance [of] many kinds of most extraordinary fungal spores”, most of which were large and tetraradiate in shape.  For several months he continued to find such spores in scum, and he finally discovered their source to be fungi living on submerged alder leaves in the stream bed.  He later learned that a few such fungi had been described earlier, but, he thought, “rather inadequately”; and so he undertook to classify those aquatic hyphomycetes into eight new genera, all of which remain valid today. 

            When Ingold first presented his findings in a report to the BMS, his mentor John Ramsbottom urged him to note the precise location where they occurred, as he thought that “such a distinctive fungal flora might not occur elsewhere”.  But in fact, they were subsequently found to exist in profusion (up to 20,000 per liter of water) in streams throughout the world.  Indeed, Nicholas Money, in his wonderful book Mr. Bloomfield’s Orchard, devotes a full chapter to “Ingold’s jewels”, where he compares Ingold’s discovery of this “wholly new type of fungus” to “the first scientific reports of elephants, rhinoceros, and other African mammals” (p. 109).

            In 1944 Ingold accepted a chair at Birkbeck College, London, where he remained for the next 33 years. In his centenary tribute, Webster describes Ingold as “a disciple of A.H. Reginald Buller, whose writings ... kindled [Ingold’s] interest in spore discharge.” Ingold subsequently published three books on that subject, the last of which[3] is an exceedingly interesting and eminently readable text.

            Though Ingold retired from teaching in 1972, he retained his interest in aquatic hyphomycetes and continued to do serious research on them at his home for another five years. Then, recognizing that he could not compete in retirement with “the splendid studies of those fungi” being undertaken elsewhere, he turned his attention to other microfungi. [4]  By the time of his eightieth birthday he had a bibliography of 174 publications, and a further 100 appeared in the following twenty years![5]  His last laboratory work, leading to two short papers in the journal Mycological Research, was conducted in 1998 and involved smut fungi.

[1] John Webster, “Centenary of a mycologist: C. Terence Ingold”, Mycological Research News, 2005, p. 754.

[2] Information in this paragraph, and elsewhere if not otherwise indicated, is taken from C.T. Ingold, “My involvement with aquatic hyphomycetes”, in B. Sutton (ed.), A Century of Mycology (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996), pp. 39-52.

[3] Fungal Spores: Their Liberation and Dispersal (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1971).

[4] C.T. Ingold, “Terence Ingold reflects”, Mycological Research News 2005, pp. 754-755.

[5] Webster, loc. cit.