Obituary: Lord Zuckerman

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The Independent Online
THE EXCELLENT obituaries of Solly Zuckerman by his peers (Lord Chalfont, Lord Healey and Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, 2 April) had so much to relate about his role in government science that little room was left to appraise his other contributions, writes Professor P. A. Jewell.

His key role in the post-war restructuring and imaginative development of London Zoo is well known. First as Secretary then as President, he persuaded one benefactor after another to make substantial contributions to the modernisation of the Zoo, endowing it with buildings of stunning design and merit. He further persuaded government to support the Zoological Society's cultural and educational role to the tune of tens of millions of pounds. His most enduring contribution, however, is likely to be the establishment at Regent's Park of the Nuffield Institute of Comparative Medicine and the Wellcome Institute of Comparative Physiology, now united, together with the veterinary division of the Zoo, as the Institute of Zoology. The research at the institute, in its contribution to knowledge about the breeding of rare species, veterinary care, and animal conservation, is the best in the world.

It is not so well known that Zuckerman initiated pioneering action to save rare British breeds of domestic livestock from extinction. During the war he saw that the 'grow more food' campaign and the ploughing-up of grasslands was greatly reducing the acreage available to grazing livestock. He feared that many interesting and valuable breeds of cattle and sheep might be lost and he requested the Council of the Zoological Society of London to establish a 'gene library' of breeding groups of animals at Whipsnade.

This was done, leading to the establishment of a 'gene bank' of living rare animals. Prominent among them were Chartley White Park cattle, Longhorn cattle, Cotswold sheep, St Kilda sheep, and the last remaining flock of Norfolk Horn sheep. Zuckerman's action gave a forceful lead to the eventual establishment of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.