Obituary: Alan Hartley Gibson 1933–1995

Obituary: Alan Hartley Gibson 1933–1995

Soi/ Bio/. Biochum. 0 1997 Published by Elsevier PII: SOO38-0717(97)00136-2 Vol. ?Y. No. Science Ltd. 5’6. p xui All Printed 0038-0717.97 ri...

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Soi/ Bio/. Biochum. 0

1997 Published

by Elsevier

PII: SOO38-0717(97)00136-2


?Y. No.



5’6. p xui All

Printed 0038-0717.97


rights in Great


reserved Britam



GIBSON 1933-1995

at Sydney University, Alan joined the CSIRO Plant Industry in Canberra, Australia but within a few weeks, was off to the U.K., where he completed a Ph.D. under the guidance of Dr P. S. Nutman, FRS, at Rothamsted Experimental Station. He returned to CSIRO in 1959 and, apart from periods of study leave, principally in the U.S.A. and working visits to many countries, he spent the remainder of his working life there. Of his many contributions to science, he is probably best known for the work on the effects of components of the physical environment on symbiotic nitrogen fixation by nodulated legumes, for his part in the establishment of conditions in which some rhizobia were able to express nitrogenase activity in culture and for his studies of variability in and evolutionary relationships among root nodule bacteria in culture, field soils and in experimental conditions. He was concerned with selection of strains of nodule bacteria for use in inoculants and on a couple of occasions, was instrumental in detecting adverse changes in inoculant strains, thus avoiding some potential disasters to inoculant manufacturers and farmers in Australia. Most recently, he developed a program of research into the symbiotic properties of nodule bacteria associated with Australian species of Acacia from temperate and tropical

Our friend and colleague, Alan Gibson, died after a few months of illness, on the morning of 8 November 1995, just 3 weeks before he had intended to leave Australia to attend the conference at Angra dos Reis, the proceedings of which follow in this issue of Soil Biology und Characteristically, he continued Biochemistry. in the laboratory after surgery in the middle of the year. When he was no longer able to be there, he had been in almost daily contact with his laboratory staff, keeping a close eye on progress, until a couple of weeks before the end. Alan was a well-known participant in research related to biological nitrogen fixation in Australia and internationally. His stocky figure and cheerful verba1 greetings were part of many conferences: his help and counsel were sought by many and freely given. From 1978 to 1981, when it ceased production, he was principal Editor of the ‘Rhizobium New~slrtter’. During this period, he accepted Dr Döbereiner’s invitation to contribute to one of the nitrogen fixation courses conducted at her Institute. Some of the participants in this course were in the audience at the present conference. Immediately after completion of his B.Sc. Agr. (Hons) degree, with Emeritus Prof. J. M. Vincent x111

areas of the country. After his death, fascinating details of the genetic mots of these bacteria were revealed through the work of one of his graduate students. In al1 of his research, Alan’s experiments were rigorous and the statistical evaluations of data comprehensive. Recently, he added to his accomplishments, painstaking collaborations with coleagues in South Australia and Victoria and

careful. friendly supervision of several graduate students. This work became increasingly curtailed following the onset of his illness in the middle of 199.5. He wil1 be sadly missed by al1 who knew him.

CSIRO Canberra.

F. J. BERGERSEN Division of Plant Industry. Australia. November 1995