October 15, 1910–February 15, 1991
BY RALPH RILEY
ERNEST ROBERT (ERNIE) SEARS was born on October 15, 1910, in the Bethel community about ten miles west of Salem in the Willamet Valley of Oregon. His parents, Jacob P. and Estella McKee Sears, were members of a large family in which teaching or farming were the principal occupations.
In his rural school at Bethel three teachers taught four grades in a single room and out of school Ernie Sears's time was mainly given to farming activities. Through 4-H Club work he got to know Oregon State College (now University), and in due course he enrolled there in the School of Agriculture. In the Farm Crops Department he enjoyed the courses on plant breeding given by Earl N. Bressman. It was Bressman who arranged for Sears to do graduate work with Professor E. M. East at Harvard in 1932. Professor East was in the Bussey Institution of Applied Biology, where Sears was also brought into contact with W. C. Castle, Karl Sax, and I. W. Bailey.
Sears left Harvard with a Ph.D. in 1936 and moved to the University of Missouri at Columbia. There he commenced work on May 1 on a USDA project concerned with polyploids under L. J. Stadler. His colleagues on the project were J. G. O'Mara and Luther Smith.