Bachelor, University Tennessee, 1948. Master of Arts, Washington University, St. Louis and Missouri Botanical Garden, 1950. Doctor of Philosophy, Washington University, St. Louis and Missouri Botanical Garden, 1952.
Doctor of Philosophy (honorary), University Guadalajara, Mexico, 2007.
Raised in Czechoslovakia, Iltis left Europe as a refugee just weeks prior to Nazi invasion of the country in March 1939. He was the biographer of Gregor Mendel. Iltis served in the United States. Army in Europe during World World War II, initially in an artillery unit
He was later transferred to an intelligence unit
After the war, Iltis was posted in Germany, where he sorted through piles of documents left by the Nazis, uncovering evidence of German war crimes. Iltis was primarily trained in plant systematics and taxonomy with a focus on the families Cleomaceae and Capparaceae.
Later publications formed a series, Studies in the Capparaceae, which includes 24 publications, including newly described species and genera. An associated series of papers describes research in the family Cleomaceae, which was separated from the Capparaceae.
An avid plant collector, Iltis led numerous expeditions to many parts of the world to search for new plant species.
As a botanist, he served as the Director of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Herbarium. His work is of great economic importance, because he identified new sources of genetic variability that have been used by plant breeders. Iltis used taxonomic and morphological approaches to investigate the domestication of corn.
His work supported the view that domestic corn was derived from a species of teosinte, a group of grasses that grows wild in many areas of Mexico.
lieutenant was once believed that the original wild corn was extinct. He also led a team of botanists who discovered a new species of Teosinte in western Mexico, Zea diploperennis.
Another of Iltis"s discoveries occurred in 1962, while he and Don Ugent were on a plant collecting expedition in Peru. Iltis spotted a wild tomato that had never been classified by taxonomists before, which he noted as Number.
832. He sent samples and seeds to a variety of specialists in the field and collected specimens for several herbariums.
This wild tomato turned out to be a new species of tomato with much higher sugar and solids content than domestically grown tomatoes. As a source for hybridization with domestic tomatoes, it has been used both to improve the flavor of tomatoes and to boost solids content. Some species of teosinte are critically endangered, and all face the loss of habitat as agricultural land use expands in Mexico.
Thanks to Iltis"s efforts, the government of Mexico has devoted resources to conserving the habitat of Zea diploperennis.
Turda M and PJ Weindling, eds. Budapest; New York: Central European University Press.
Iltis, Hugh H. (1983). "From teosinte to maize: The catastrophic sexual transmutation".
Science 222 (4626): 886–894. doi:10.1126/science.222.4626.886.
PMID 17738466. Iltis Hugh H., Doebly J.F., Guzman R., & Pazy B. (1979). "Zea diploperennis (Gramineae): A new Teosinte from Mexico".
Science 203: 186–187. doi:10.1126/science.203.4376.186.
Iltis, Hugh H. (1982). "Discovery of Number. 832: An essay in defense of the National Science Foundation". Desert Plants 3: 175–192.
"Author Query for "Iltis"".
International Plant Names Index.
2007. "Blood and Homeland": Eugenics and racial nationalism in Central and Southeast Europe 1900-1940.
Co-instigator Reserva Biosfera Sierra de Manantlán, Jalisco, Mexico (co-discoverer Zea diploperennis). Fellow American Association for the Advancement of Science, Linnean Society (London). Member American Institute Biological Sciences, Botanical Society American (Merit award 1996), Society Economics Botany (Economics Botanist of Yr.award 1998), American Society Plant Taxonomists (Asa Gray award 1994), International Association Plant Taxonomy, Society Botanical Mexico, Society Study Evolution, Ecological Society American, Wisconsin Academy Arts, Science and Letters, Forum for Corresponding-International Center Integrative Studies, Nature Conservancy (trustee Wisconsin chapter, National Oakleaf award 1963), Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, National Parks Association, Citizens Natural Resources Association Wisconsin, Natural Resource Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, Friends of Earth, Cenozoic Society, Zero Population Growth, Society Conservation Biology (Distinguished Achievement award 1994), Sigma Xi, Phi Kappa Phi.
Married Grace Schaffel, December 20, 1951 (divorced March 1958). Children: Frank S., Michael George. Married Carolyn Merchant, August 4, 1961 (divorced June 1970).
Children: David Hugh, John Paul. Married Sharyn Wisniewski November 3, 2006.