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Kenneth Bryan Raper (July 11, 1908, Bienvenue, North Carolina – 1987) was a mycologist, microbiologist, American botanist.
He was well known for his contributions to the medical and industrial applications of the fungi of the genera Aspergillus and Penicillium, and also in the identification of a “discoideum slime mold Dictyostelium” cell phones in 1935 that led to four decades of studies and Publications about a group of organisms (Dictyostelids and amoebas) with wide applications in microbiology.
He was born on July 11, 1908, his parents were William F. and Julia Crouse; Kenneth obtained his A.B. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1929; and then at George Washington University until 1931 and at Harvard University until 1936, where he obtained his Ph.D. Later in his career, he received an honorary doctorate in science from the University of North Carolina.
As a mycologist, he began his professional career at the USDA, first in the Office of Chemistry and Soils (1929-1936) and then in the Office of Plant Industry, from 1936 to 1940. There he met Dr. Charles Thom who became his mentor and key collaborator in his work. Thom and Raper were coauthors of classic monographs: an Aspergillus manual (1945) and a penicillin manual (1949).
From 1940 to 1953, Raper would be a microbiologist at the USDA Regional Center in Peoria, Illinois. In 1940, during the visit of British scientists Raymond Florey and Ronald Heatley who were trying to develop methods to produce large-scale penicillin for war, Raper and his associates launched a historically important program of studies on that antibiotic. The Raper Research Laboratory was overwhelmed by the demand for care for the wounded of the Second World War and that set in motion the “Age of Antibiotics”.
After a professorial appointment at the University of Illinois (1946-1953), Kenneth Raper left the USDA in 1953 to be a professor of bacteriology and botany at the University of Wisconsin.
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