Seedsmen Hall of Fame
Honoring Horticulturalists

James C. Gilbert

J. C. Gilbert was born on June 12, 1909 and passed away on November 2, 1992 in Honolulu, Hawaii.[1]

Dr. Gilbert was a vegetable breeder, but in addition, one of the top tomato breeders in the world. His work involved the use of Mendelian genetic principles, that is conventional breeding, to develop disease-resistant tomatoes. His success at this work came from him being both an expert plant pathologist as well as a plant breeder.[2]

He was involved with an elite group of researchers who possessed similar interests and skills, which organized in 1951 as the Tomato Genetics Cooperative.

Dr. Gilbert also taught classes in vegetable crops and worked with all of the contemporary experts in vegetable breeding such as Henry Munger of Cornell University and Tex Frazier of Oregon State University. Along with his work breeding disease resistant tomatoes, he also bred varieties of lettuce, beans, peas, soybeans, cucumbers, and eggplants.

In the search for tomato disease resistances, one of the most significant varieties resulting from Dr. Gilbert's program is a selection called 'Hawaii 7996'. He admitted in a letter dated March, 1978 to H. Laterrot that no publications had been specifically written for this line, and that he was not fully satisfied with it because of its flavour due to alkaloid residues in the ripe fruit. He recommended to using it as a rootstock or as a parent to be crossed with another parent of good flavour and some bacterial wilt resistance, for making F1s.[3]

The exact origin and pedigree has been lost to time but it is an important parent in the pedigree of many subsequent Tomato Bacterial Wilt (TBW) resistant cultivars. In the 2010 annual report of the Tomato Genetics Cooperative it states, "Breeding is an art as much as a science, and the exact pedigree of the most famous bacterial wilt resistant line 'Hawaii 7996' will probably remain the secret of the breeding genius of the late J. C. Gilbert."[3]

One example for its use is by Florida State University tomato breeder Jay Scott who used 'Hawaii 7996' to add TBW resistance to his tomato varieties developed for the Florida tomato industry.

Dr. Gilbert also used 'Hawaii 7996' in his own breeding program. One commercial introduction is a TBW resistant variety called 'Kewalo' that is grown in many Pacific islands where bacterial wilt is prevalent.


  1. Social Security Death Index

  2. "SEED STORIES: Special Seed Edition," by Glenn I. Teves, County Extension Agent, UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, Cooperative Extension Service - Molokai, August, 2013.

  3. Tomato Genetics Cooperative, Volume 60, 2010, page 10.

  4. "Vegetable Crops," by James C. Gilbert, Hawaii AES Miscellaneous Publication 180, March, 1982.


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