Robert Blair

Robert Blair

Professor Emeritus

University of Aberdeen, 1960, PhD

Glasgow University, 1956, BSc, Agriculture (Hons Zoology)

Bob was born in Beith, Scotland and attended Beith Academy and Spier’s School, Beith. He was attracted to the Agriculture program at Glasgow University and graduated with a BSc in Agriculture (Hons Zoology) in 1956. After graduation Bob went to work for the Murphy Chemical company in Wheathamstead, England, testing new chemicals for insect control.

After a few months Bob decided that the job with Murphy was not for him. An advert in Nature took his fancy and he applied for a temporary Scientific Officer position at the Rowett Institute, Aberdeen. The position was in the Pig Section of the Applied Nutrition Department. The Rowett was looking at that time for a veterinarian to fill the post but took Bob because of his background in zoology and agriculture. Improved diets and rearing procedures were developed in that position and in 1960 Bob received a PhD degree from the University of Aberdeen.

The appointment of a new Professor of Agriculture at Aberdeen University led to several initiatives and Bob accepted the job of starting up a new pig research program at the Aberdeen University Farm. In addition to research, he lectured on pig and poultry nutrition and production. As his research program developed it became obvious to Bob that working with poultry would be an advantage since the experiments would be larger and cheaper to run, and he could learn a great deal more about nutrition in a much shorter time. So at a meeting of the Nutrition Society he had a discussion with Dr Bill Bolton of the ARC Poultry Research Centre and expressed an interest in joining his research team. Bill called a few months later to say that now had a vacancy and suggested that Bob apply. The application was successful and Bob went to Edinburgh in 1966 as a researcher in the Nutrition Department. A very productive research period followed and Bob was promoted to Principal Scientific Officer.

Bob thought it would be very interesting and informative to spend some time at one of the leading laboratories in the US. Subsequently he was granted sabbatical leave in 1979-80 to spend a year working with Drs Milton Scott and Bob Young at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. Bob, wife Moreen, and their young daughter and son enjoyed their year there and later decided to move to North America should the opportunity arise. The opportunity came in 1975 when Bob was offered the position of Director of Nutrition with the Swift Canadian Company in Toronto, and the family emigrated to Canada. The position gave Bob a great introduction to agribusiness and meat production and marketing in North America, but involved him in a lot of travel within Canada and the United States. Consequently an offer from the University of Saskatchewan to set up a new Prairie Swine Centre was accepted and Bob and family moved west to Saskatoon in 1978. There he was a Professor of Animal Science and Executive Director of the new Centre, which opened in 1980. In 1983 he received the earned DSc degree from the University of Saskatchewan for research achievements in animal nutrition, and in 1986 he received a special award from the Saskatchewan Branch of the Canadian Feed Industry Association for his leadership role in founding the Western Nutrition Conference (now the Animal Nutrition Conference of Canada) in 1980.

The cold winters of the Prairies were left behind in 1984 when Bob was appointed Professor and Head of the Department of Animal Science at the University of British Columbia. He was later appointed Head of the new Department of Animal Science, formed by the merger of Animal Science and Poultry Science in 1986 and served in that position until 1991. Among the courses he taught were animal and human nutrition at the undergraduate and graduate levels, animal production and technical writing. Several graduate students received the MSc or PhD degrees under his supervision. He retired from UBC in 1998 as Professor Emeritus and that year received a Fellowship from the Agricultural Institute of Canada for contributions to Canadian agriculture.

Bob has travelled to many countries and has held visiting professorships at the Universities of Nairobi (Kenya), Prince Edward Island (Atlantic Veterinary College), South Pacific (Alafua campus), and California (Riverside campus). His activities and interests are wide and to date he has published over 200 papers and articles on animal and poultry nutrition. He is a member of several professional societies and served on several Canadian and on two US National Research Council Committees dealing with animal nutrition. He is a former President (1983-88) and Board member (1983-93) of the World Association for Animal Production (1988-93), and from 1991-98 served as Editor-in-Chief of the Elsevier international scientific journal Animal Feed Science and Technology. He is listed in several Who’s Who publications.

Post-retirement activities have included acting as Science Editor for the Ministry of Agriculture Feed Industry Center, China Agricultural University, Beijing; PhD examiner and academic adviser at several Asian universities; consultant on research projects; member of the Editorial Board of the journal Veterinary Sciences (Basel, Switzerland); Associate Editor, Encyclopedia of Animal Nutrition, Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau International (CABI); and working on a History of the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences at UBC. His book publications include Nutrition and Feeding of Organic Pigs (English and Chinese editions); Nutrition and Feeding of Organic Poultry (English, Arabic and Chinese editions); Nutrition and Feeding of Organic Cattle; Organic Production and Food Quality, A Down to Earth Analysis; Genetic Modification and Food Quality, A Down to Earth Analysis; and GM food and human health in Genetically Modified and Irradiated Food-Controversial Issues- Facts Versus Perceptions.