Gerald S. Norman (1910-1985)
State Plant Board (Department of Agriculture Division of Plant)
Mediterranean Fruit Fly
Citrus Budwood Certification Program
IFAS-NANA Sensing Program
American Society of Phogrammetry
Florida Citrus Nurseryman’s Association
International Organization of Citrus Virologists
Gerald S. Norman was born on August 10, 1910 in Carbondale, Illinois. He moved to Orlando with his family when he was a child. He attended public school in Orange County and graduated from Memorial High School in 1929.
Shortly after graduation, he became part of the State Plant Board, whose primary focus was the eradication of the Mediterranean fruit fly. He initially worked as a laborer and foreman, eventually working his way up to spray supervisor by the time the project was completed in 1932. From 1932-1939, he supported himself by working in a variety of groves and canning facilities. In 1939 he traveled to the West Coast in order to work at a defense plant run by Pratt & Whitney. He also worked for Boeing during the war years before returning to Florida in 1945 in order to work as a foreman and production planner at the state’s first concentrate plant.
In 1948, he returned to the Florida State Plant Board, which had since transformed itself into the Division of Plant Industry as part of the Department of Agriculture. He started working as a grove and nursery inspector, eventually becoming assistant chief plant inspector. As part of his new position, he assumed responsibility for the Citrus Budwood Certification Program. The program, designed to assist nurseries and growers in selecting buds which were free from diseases, was given to Norman in 1953 due to his intelligence and uncompromising standards, and he led it until 1964. The program initially started with 18 growers submitting a handful of trees as candidates for budwood selection, but twelve years later, under the leadership of Norman, the program had expanded to 50,000 parent trees and had produced a staggering 13 million trees. The program helped Florida avoid virus-related catastrophes that had ravaged both California and Brazil citrus. The program was the best of its type, and served as a model for similar programs worldwide. While serving with the program, Norman also championed the extraction of budwood from the grove of Dr. Ausker E. Hughes who before his death in 1944 had specially designed a freeze-resistant grove. Norman uncovered the existence of the grove in 1955 and later became treasurer of the Hughes Memorial Fund, which gave scholarships from the proceeds of the Hughes budwood to students in horticulture and citrus at the University of Florida and Florida Southern College.
Norman became known as an expert on citrus viruses, and was brought in to assist virus control programs in Turkey, Brazil, and Greece during the early 1960’s. In 1964, he was named the section chief of the new Methods Development Section of the Division of Plant Industry. In this new role, Norman pioneered the use of infra-red photography for the diagnosis of mass grove diseases. His findings were later integrated into the IFAS-NASA remote sensing program. Norman became the first president of the American Society of Photogrammetry. He also participated in the development and use of nuclear seedlings and established a budline for the lime industry which was free of lime blotch disease.
Gerald Norman was a member of many associations, including the Florida Citrus Nurseryman’s Association, the Florida State Horticultural Society, the American Society of Horticultural Society, Caribbean Section, the International Organization of Citrus Virologists, and the United States Registry Fruit and Nut Varieties. He was also the author or co-author of numerous papers.
He was also a family man. He married Margaret Pratt, from California, and had five daughters and one son. He retired in 1975 and was inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame eight years later, in 1983.