Béla Cholnoky: A history. Part 3

30 September 2012

This post continues the history of the Father of South African diatomology. This text was originally prepared by Dr Keve T Kiss of the Danube Research Station, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, in 1999, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Béla Cholnoky. This is the third of three parts.

Part 3

Continuing from Part 2:

We can distinguish four periods in Cholnoky’s scientific activity:

– At first he studied the diatoms of Hungary, which he started soon after he entered the universitym with all of his energy, alone and without any help and guidance (Uherkovich, 1966).  His first two papers published before the University of Kolozsvár moved to Szegd, already show his exact knowledge of taxonomy and the high level of his excellent drawings of diatom taxa.  Before his removal from the university, he published two further papers.  His last work about diatoms published from Hungary was by Cholnoky and Hõfler (1943).  From this period, his most worthy papers include the series of critical investigations of the diatom flora, papers dealing with the ecology of diatoms, the morphology of colonies, different adherence strategies, production of gelatinous stalks and tubes or on cytology, reproduction and life-cycles.

– the latter papers lead to the second research period, what could be called general phycology, physiology and cytology, which he started in Hungary and continued abroad.  He extended his studies to other algal groups.

– the third area of his research was connected to his seed-growing and gardening activity in Hungary and in other countries.

– the fourth area was again diatom research outside Hungary, chiefly in South Africa, and this work comprised of his life-work. Because of the poor knowledge of the diatom flora of African waters, he describes dozens of new taxa in almost all of his papers.  From the beginning of the fifties till his death he published about the diatom flora, ranging from South African waters, Central Africa, South West Africa, Botswana, Rhodesia and Mozambique.  As a well-known expert he was also asked to study the diatoms of Indonesia (then Holland New-Guinea) and Venezuela.

Cholnoky described hundreds of new algal tax, mostly diatoms.  Duplicates of his slide preparations are housed in collections around the world.

We hope that Béla J Cholnoky will not be forgotten. He has left us a great heritage in his life’s work, that will always remain an example to follow.

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