Professor Eric Lamming

Authority on the use of steroids in enhancing productivity in livestock
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The Independent Online

Eric Lamming was a man of powerful intellect and strong personality who made important contributions to research on animal fertility and reproduction, and to the application of that research to veterinary and farming practice.

George Eric Lamming, animal physiologist: born Swallow, Lincolnshire 14 April 1927; Lecturer, then Senior Lecturer in Animal Physiology, Nottingham University 1953-64, Professor of Animal Physiology 1964-92 (Emeritus); OBE 1985; married 1949 Jean Fisher (one son, one daughter); died Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire 2 June 2004.

Eric Lamming was a man of powerful intellect and strong personality who made important contributions to research on animal fertility and reproduction, and to the application of that research to veterinary and farming practice.

He was an authority on the use of hormonal products such as anabolic steroids in enhancing productivity in livestock. In the 1980s, when their use in Europe was permitted but controversial, he had a well-publicised clash with the EC after the Commission sought Lamming's views on such products in farming, then decided to ban them without waiting for his advice.

As Professor of Animal Physiology at Nottingham University from 1964 to 1992, he built up the university's Sutton Bonington Institute (now the School of Biosciences) into an establishment of international standing in the field of animal science.

Lamming, a farmer at heart, first trained as an agriculturist, graduating BSc in that subject from Nottingham and picking up a diploma in dairying en route. He then broadened his experience, moving to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1951 to gain a MSc in agricultural economics and a PhD.

On his return to the UK in 1951, Lamming started on the path that was to have a vital role in shaping his future career. He joined the team at Cambridge engaged on the early research into embryo transfer, a technique that was to have a revolutionary effect on breeding practices in farm animals, particularly cattle. He moved back to Nottingham in 1953 on his appointment as a lecturer and remained there for the rest of his career.

His research into the reproduction and fertility of farm animals brought him into contact with the veterinary profession, with which he was to be closely associated over the years. His work on the application of hormonal substances to improving fertility, controlling reproduction and enhancing productivity in livestock brought him international renown.

Lamming was a longstanding member of the Government's Veterinary Products Committee and of a number of the (former) Agricultural and Food Research Council livestock research groups and of the EC Standing Veterinary Committee.

He was a natural choice to chair the committee set up by the EC to investigate the pros and cons of the use of anabolic steroids in animal production (the Lamming Committee) in the 1980s. The Commission, however, was not prepared to wait for Lamming's recommendations; it went ahead with a total ban on the use of steroid implants. It was said at the time that the Council of Ministers did not wish to be confused by the facts when making its decision.

Not surprisingly, Lamming was furious. He published his conclusions anyway.

His enthusiasm for research was, however, undeterred. Even after retiring in 1992, he maintained a small group at Sutton Bonington. One of his projects was to investigate why the fertility of dairy cows had declined. Lamming showed that this was because breeding selection had been decided purely on milk- production characteristics.

Although he enjoyed a formidable reputation, Lamming was in fact gregarious and approachable. His former student Andy Peters, now himself a professor of animal physiology at London University, recalls that, when applying for a post as a PhD student, he approached his interview with trepidation. "I needn't have feared," said Peters. "I was immediately won over by his down-to-earth, friendly, nature."

Edward Boden

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