Relationship Between Plants, Humans and Medicine Explored in Lecture from World Expert

A world expert in finding new medicines derived from plants as well as the relationship between human cultures and plants used in ritual and medicine will speak at Colorado State University’s annual Thornton-Massa Lecture at 7:30 p.m. April 21 at the Poudre High School Auditorium, 201 Impala Drive.

Paul Cox will share his expertise in ethnobotany, studying indigenous cultures, their use of horticulture as well as the evolution of plants in current drug developments in a lecture titled "Ethnobotany, New Drugs and Old Diseases." In addition to teaching at Brigham Young University, Cox’s career includes directing the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kauai, Hawaii, a privately funded national resource devoted to conserving tropical plants, particularly those that are rare or endangered. The garden was the setting for the movie, "Jurassic Park."

Cox, a believer in plant’s medicinal abilities, strongly supports efforts to ensure that benefits of indigenous horticulture and medicine are shared with indigenous people when modern science unveils that ancient knowledge is suitable for modern drug development.

Cox has been named a "Hero of Medicine" by Time magazine and has received honors from the National Science Foundation and Danforth along with Fulbright fellowships. In 1997, he received the Goldman Environmental Prize, considered to be the Nobel Prize of environmental conservation. Cox is author of "Nafauna: Saving the Samoan Rainforest and Plants, People and Culture: The Science of Ethnobotany."

The Thornton-Massa Lecture Series sponsors an annual presentation on biodiversity, improved plant genetics and related topics. The series is made possible by the generosity of Dr. Emil Massa of Denver and the late Bruce and Mildred Thornton. Massa earned a medical degree in 1953 from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and entered private practice in Denver in 1960. He retired in 1991.

Bruce and Mildred Thornton shared a lifelong interest in and commitment to the study, identification and preservation of seeds. Both were Colorado natives who attended Colorado State University, where both obtained master’s degrees in botany. They married in 1930.

Bruce Thornton served from 1927 to 1962 as a Colorado State faculty member and with the Agricultural Experiment Station staff. In addition to leading weed control investigations, he headed the Colorado State Seed Laboratory from 1940 to 1961. Mildred Thornton worked full-time and later intermittently at the seed lab until her husband’s retirement in 1961. She took over the directorship and, during nine years, oversaw the move to new facilities and continued to maintain the laboratory’s excellence in seed research and in the training of seed analysts. She received several awards for her work, including Colorado State’s Henry Award and Honor Alumna.

For more information on the lecture and program, call (970) 491-6974.