Richard Lawrence Witter

  • Born: 1936 (USA)
  • Inducted: 2013
Dick Witter was born in Bangor, Maine, USA, and completed BS and DVM degrees at Michigan State University, and MS and PhD degrees at Cornell University. He worked at the USDA-ARS-Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory, East Lansing, Michigan from 1964-2002. He served as the Director of ADOL from 1975-1998, balancing administrative responsibilities with an active personal research program. Following retirement in 2002, he served as a Collaborator with his former laboratory.

He was Scientific Advisor for the ARS-Former Soviet Union Scientific Cooperation Program as well as on several national committees to advance research cooperation with Russia. He was a past president of the American Association of Avian Pathologists, serving in many roles including organizer of the 2003 AVMA-WVPA meeting in Denver and initiator of the AAAP biography project.

He is known especially for his research on Marek’s disease (MD) vaccine development, elucidation of viral pathotypes, and documentation of the evolution of this virus to greater virulence. He also contributed to knowledge on reticuloendotheliosis virus and on avian leukosis virus.

Some specific accomplishments include: isolation and characterization of turkey herpesvirus (HVT), which became the first MD vaccine used in the United States and is still in use; development of several additional MD vaccine strains and validation of strain CVI988 for use in the United States; elucidation of synergism among certain MD vaccine viruses; and development of standardized techniques to classify MD virus strains by pathotype. He also prepared a guide for the diagnosis of avian viral tumors and wrote a 50-year history of the AAAP.

His many awards and recognitions include the ARS Hall of Fame, Poultry Hall of Fame, and honorary doctorates from the Tierärztlichen Hochschule, Hannover, Germany and the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences (USA) in 1998.

Outside work, Dick spends his time with his piano and tending his extensive garden. He embraces the outdoors and enjoys hunting, fishing, canoeing, camping and photography. The family cottage in Maine is a special retreat which he enjoys with his wife Joan, and his children Jane and Steven and their families.

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