CORVALLIS - John Fryer, a distinguished professor emeritus of microbiology at Oregon State University and one of the world's pioneers in diseases of salmon and other fish, died Tuesday, August 31, following an illness. He was 75.
Fryer received his doctorate from OSU in 1964, was on the OSU faculty for more than 40 years and served a long tenure as chair of its Department of Microbiology. He was widely recognized at the university and internationally for his work on the infectious diseases of fish, especially salmon in the Pacific Northwest.
His research helped train generations of students and covered many fields. He isolated viruses that were serious threats to salmon health, developed vaccines, improved salmon aquaculture and characterized important disease-causing organisms.
"John Fryer was the father of the modern science of infectious diseases of salmon, he built the foundation for much of what we know today in this field," said Ron Hedrick, who earned his doctorate under Fryer 25 years ago and now serves as a professor in the Department of Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of California, Davis.
"We just called him Doc," Hedrick said. "But he was the one that brought the knowledge and advances in microbiology to bear on infectious disease problems in salmon and other fish, and in so doing trained many people throughout the world who are now considered leaders in this field."
In 1994, Fryer was instrumental in creating the Center for Fish Disease Research at OSU, a $1.5 million, 9,300-square-foot facility focused on the study of diseases of young salmon. Fryer served as its first director, and the center has helped train many of the nation's professional fish health researchers, identified the causes of many diseases and developed vaccines. Its work has been expanded to include wild marine fish, ornamental species and fish used as research models.
When he was honored in 2002 by the American Fisheries Society, officials noted that his work had "achieved international acclaim . . . and spanned the disciplines of virology, parasitology, bacteriology, cell biology, immunology and fish physiology, resulting in more than 200 publications, two patents and recognition as one of the world's leading centers for research on infectious diseases of salmonid fish."
As an educator, Fryer's courses were taken by thousands of undergraduate students and more than 50 master's and doctoral students. He received the F.A. Gilfillan Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Science from the OSU College of Science, the Carter Award for outstanding teaching, and many other international career awards and honors. In 1991 he earned the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Award - it noted that his contributions to aquaculture were the most outstanding contribution to American agriculture in the previous five years.
His research took him to Chile, Japan, Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, Great Britain, Canada and many other nations. When he "officially" retired in the 1990s - aside from the fact his research programs continued in full swing - colleagues from all over the world flew to Corvallis to honor him.