Journal article

"Listen to the Trees!" A tribute to the father of modern cavitation research, Professor John Milburn, on the 20th anniversary of his untimely death

Virginia Gai Williamson

Journal of Plant Hydraulics | Universite de Bordeaux


Over the last 35 years, the study of cavitation in plants has become an accepted and important component of the water stress studies performed by plant physiologists. Although the existence of cavitation had been known since Berthelot’s (1850) pioneering work on the tensile strength of water in glass tubes, the tensions at which it occurred in such systems were far more negative than were considered likely to occur in plants. It is to the late Professor John Milburn’s sharp observational powers, lateral thinking and problem-solving approach — illustrated by his pioneering detection of cavitation in plants — that we owe today’s field of cavitation research. John Milburn was constantly thinkin..

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