N.J. Inventors Hall of Fame Honors Four Rutgers Faculty Members

N.J. Inventors Hall of Fame Honors Four Rutgers Faculty Members

Developing software that helps children and adults with learning disabilities and “saving the U.S. dogwood industry” are among their accomplishments



NEW
BRUNSWICK, N.J. – The New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame honored 20 individuals
at its Oct. 18 annual awards dinner, including four Rutgers faculty members. Elwin
Orton, professor emeritus of plant biology and pathology, was inducted into
the Hall of Fame. Paula Tallal, Rutgers Board of Governors Professor of
Neuroscience, received the “Inventor of the Year” award. Marco Gruteser,
associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Richard Martin,
associate professor of computer science, received the Innovators Award.

Tallal
has helped to bring positive change to more than three million children and
adults who struggle with language and literacy. Fast ForWord®, a revolutionary
technique and series of software programs she co-developed, assists people in
more than 40 countries by establishing and strengthening the neural networks
for language development. Learn more here.

Gruteser
and Martin have designed and tested a smart phone application that senses where
in a car a cell phone user is sitting: on the driver’s side or the passenger’s side. If
the user is on the driver’s side, the app takes several actions that reduce
distractions to the driver, such as silently forwarding incoming calls and
texts to message boxes for later retrieval. Learn more here.

Orton
has been credited with “saving the U.S. dogwood industry” with new strains of
hardy, disease- and pest-resistant hybrid dogwoods when diseases and insects threatened
the native species of the popular flowering tree. He has earned more than 15
patents, with more pending, for new strains of dogwoods and holly that he
developed over his four-decade career. The university estimates that the retail
value of his creations is greater than $200 million and licensing royalty proceeds
to Rutgers exceed $1.9 million.

Elwin Orton

Elwin Orton with Venus dogwood tree

“Elwin
Orton not only has created living things of great beauty that are enjoyed by
people around the world, but his creative work also has produced lucrative
patents and valuable new hybrids of dogwoods and holly,” said Kenneth J.
Breslauer, Vice President for Health Sciences and Linus Pauling Professor of
Chemistry and Chemical Biology, who heads research at Rutgers. “Professor
Orton's exemplary dedication to science and education is one of the many
reasons why the citizens of New Jersey treasure Rutgers as a unique statewide
resource that also enables discovery and learning which has a global reach.”

Orton
has received many awards over the years, including two major awards from the
American Horticultural Society and the Distinguished Service Medal from the
Garden Club of America. Orton was inducted into the New Jersey Nursery and
Landscape Association’s Hall of Fame and received the Norman J. Coleman Award of
the American Association of Nurserymen. And just last week the Eastern Region
of the International Plant Propagator's Association initiated a new Research
Fund in honor of Orton.

“These
awards cover all of my work so it makes me feel confident for once in my life
that my career as a plant biologist was successful and I did make an impact in
woody ornamentals,” Orton said. “So I am very, very pleased. It gives me great
pleasure knowing that millions of people are enjoying my new dogwoods.”

What’s
the key to Orton’s success? “It’s imagination,” according to Robert M. Goodman,
executive dean of Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and executive
director of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. “What the plant
breeder is after doesn’t exist, except in his mind’s eye,” Goodman said in a
January 2010 Star-Ledger article. “A
lot of it is art and a lot is instinct. It takes patience and perseverance and
an intimate knowledge of the plant material. You get out in the field and you
don’t give up.”

The
current issue of American Gardener, the
American Horticultural Society’s magazine, has an admiring profile of Orton,
with numerous photos of some dogwood and holly hybrids he created.

A
“legendary plant breeder,” is how he’s described.

A
resident of Millstone, N.J., Orton earned a bachelor’s in horticulture from
Penn State in 1952 and a master’s in horticulture from Ohio State in 1954.
Shortly after earning a doctorate in plant genetics from the University of
Wisconsin in 1960, Orton joined Rutgers. He was promoted to professor in 1973
and became a Professor Emeritus in 2008.

Media Contact: Edward Tate
732-445-3153
E-mail: edward.tate@rutgers.edu