Growing up on a farm in the English countryside gave me an enduring appreciation of the plants in and outside farmers' fields. After studies at Cambridge and London Universities, which included botany and plant pathology, I did postdoctoral research in California. I came to Cornell as an assistant professor of plant pathology in 1970. Since then my work has focused on the apple tree, its origins and its diseases. I have also tried to pass on some of my enthusiasm to as many students as I can. I have been particularly interested in improving the apple tree`s ability to stand up for itself against the assaults of myriad diseases, with doing harm to the rest of our wonderful environment. This has led me into close association with apple breeders, with whom I have helped develop varieties with better resistance to diseases. It also led me to explore for wild apples in Central Asia, where we know now the domestic apple originated. As a result we have assembled an excellent collection of apples from the wild, which will be a valuable source of genes to use in future. In recent years we have explored the use of biotechnology to strengthen apple varieties. This promises to be of great value as we gain a much better understanding of the genes in apple trees and how they work, through genomics studies. We have also tried to gain a better understanding of the diseases, so that we can counter them with improved methods. We have paid particular attention to the devastating fire blight disease, which was first found in New York and continues to be the most feared disease of apple trees here and elsewhere.