Konstantinos Mitrakos

(1926-1996)

 

On December 26, 1996, the Greek Botanical family lost one of its eminent members, Professor Konstantinos Mitrakos, who unexpectedly passed away, at the age of 70.

Konstantinos Mitrakos was born in a small village of Thessaly (1926) and obtained his Diplomas on Agronomy (1952) and Chemistry (1955), as well as his Ph.D. on Biology (1957), from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, where he also served as assistant and lecturer (1953-1962). During most of the period 1957-1965 he continued his studies and activities abroad, at internationally recognised research centres (Universität Tübingen, Prof. Bünning; ETH Zürich, Prof. Frey-Wyssling; Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., Drs Klein and Price). In 1965 he was elected Professor of General Botany at the National and Capodistrian University of Athens where he founded, equipped, organised and directed a very active laboratory (Institute of General Botany). Besides educating numerous generations of biologists, he extended the research activities of the lab throughout most disciplines of Botanical Science. It is in this lab that a large number of persons, Greeks and foreigners, staff and visitors, technicians and staff, undergraduates and tutors have spent shorter or longer periods of time. This lab is perhaps the biggest single achievement of Prof. Mitrakos scientific life.

His initial studies mainly concerned cytology but he soon became a plant physiologist and a phytochromist, in particular. In this latter field he contributed important works and as an eminent member of the European and International community on Plant Photomorphogenesis he organised, twice, the Annual European Symposium on Plant Photomorphogenesis, together with a concurrent Advanced Summer School. These events took place in Eretria and Spetses, Greece (1971 and 1987, respectively) and constitute the landmarks of early and mature eras of phytochrome research.

He was among the founders and the first President of the Hellenic Botanical Society. He travelled all over Europe and he established contacts and collaborations throughout the continent. According to his own words he was a European citizen and he heartily supported the FESPP movement, where he contributed as the National Representative of Greece, from 1982 until his retirement (summer 1995). He remained active on various research projects (tissue culture; propagation of Mediterranean plants) until his very last days.

His numerous students, co-workers and fellow botanists will remember Professor Mitrakos as a lively and influential person. He will be also praised as a founder of Botany in Greece who, among other, introduced phytochrome research (and modern Plant Physiology, in general), pioneered in Mediterranean Plant Physiology and Ecology and revived the interest on Theophrastus and his works.

Costas A. Thanos