In Memorium, Dr. Dibyendu Roy (1935-2021)

Author: Sadia Butt, OUFC

D.N. Roy
Dr. Dibyendu Roy, a world-renowned scientist who found a cure for Dutch-elm disease (Photo credit: Daniel’s Forestry)

Dr. Dibyendu Roy was a prominent figure in my life while a student at the Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto. He provided encouragement and collegial mentorship to students even if they were not under his supervision. He was always smiling or had a contemplative look, which also looked like a smile, that was expressed through his eyes! He loved to engage with students, interested in their research and progress. His soft voice could boom with laughter, whether he shared a joke or was laughing at something amusing.

Our MFC group met Dr. Roy while doing our Masters in Conservation at the former Forestry Faculty at the University of Toronto. Our shared office was next to his and could not be missed. On his door was the full-length Albert Einstein poster, who’s scientific work we both admired. One of our first conversations was that Einstein quotes were the best. We would talk about so many things and he would keep track of all of us. I also remember him as an avid swimmer who took time from his day to get in a few laps, saying after he retired that this was the best part of his day. He is remembered by so many as humble, kind, gentle, generous, as well as humorous. He will be missed by so many and his contribution will remain a legacy in the world of forestry.

He was known in the wood research world as the man who cured the elm tree. Dr. Roy was a member of the Shade Tree Research Laboratory at the University of Toronto in the early 60s. When others, including Rachel Carson, were losing hope on a DDT-free method to save the elms devasted by the Dutch Elm Disease fungus, Dr. Roy and his colleagues did not.  Dr. Roy, a biochemist, brought his ingenuity to the lab, and developed a fungicide application to inject into the root flare of a tree. Two major breakthroughs were made where they determined which molecule actually affected the fungus and then he devised a way to increase the water solubility of the molecule to ensure uptake by the tree. This was published in 1973.

Kondo ES, Roy DN, Jorgensen E. 1973. Salts of methyl-2-benzimidazole carbamate (MBC) and assessment of their potential in Dutch elm disease control. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 3:548–555.

He also completed research on the uptake and persistence of herbicide in blueberries and raspberries. He found that glysophate in these wild berries had a slow decline in residual levels for up to 33 days.

Roy DN, Konar SK, Banerjee S, Charles DA, Thompson DG, and Prasad R. 1989. Uptake and persistence of the herbicide glyphosate (Vision) in fruit of wild blueberry and red raspberry. Canandian Journal of Forest Research, 19:842-847.

I recommend that you watch his interview 42 years ago from the CBC archives. Also, read the memorials from Daniels Forestry and memories of his students and colleagues. The OUFC extends our deepest condolences to his family and friends.