An international group of plant pathologists has solved a historical mystery behind Ireland's Great Famine.
Sure, scientists have known for a while that a funguslike organism called Phytophthora infestans was responsible for the potato blight that plagued Ireland starting in the 1840s. But there are many different strains of the pathogen that cause the disease, and scientists have finally discovered the one that triggered the Great Famine.
When I found out that one of my cousins — now 88 — had hidden from the Nazis in Amsterdam, just like Anne Frank, it was a revelation. It made me want to know more about my cousin's life and story.
"I like to analyze what happens and to put it in writing; that gives you neatness in your head, and that is what I'm after," says my cousin, retired Judge Suzanne Hoogendijk. She was 87 at the time, and was talking about why she loved being a judge. But delving into her personal past was another matter.