Professor Peter Thomas Haskell BSc PhD DIC CMG (1923-2012)
When Peter Haskell took up his honorary professorial fellowship of University College, Cardiff in 1973, he brought with him an immense body of accumulated experience and expertise in entomology, integrated pest management and scientific leadership. Having graduated from Imperial College, London with a first in Zoology (1951), he gained a Ph.D. in entomology there (1955) for his pioneering work on acoustic communication in insects (he later developed that research into a seminal overview, the book Insect Sounds). Upon receiving his doctorate he joined the staff of the Anti-Locust Research Centre (ALRC) which was a unit of the Overseas Development Administration (ODA). Having started out at the ALRC as Principal Scientific Officer, he progressed via Deputy Director (1959) to become its Director in 1962. In 1971, Peter became overall Director of the Centre for Overseas Pest Research (COPR) as a result of the merger with the three other ODA units. In that role, he oversaw groundbreaking research into agricultural pests, and he acted as a consultant to several international bodies (FAO, OECD, UNDP, WHO). He was also influential in securing major roles for Cardiff scientists in COPR’s Rice Brown Planthopper control programme, and he facilitated the establishment of the Rice Pest Research Unit housed within Cardiff University. For several years, he was Editor-in-Chief of the journal, Tropical Pest Management. In 1975 he became Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) for his services to overseas pest research and control. Peter’s honorary fellowship at Cardiff was a very influential one as regards teaching: he lectured to packed audiences of Cardiff undergraduates, postgraduates and academic staff, sessions that proved both entertaining and inspirational.
In 1983, Peter retired from COPR and immediately employed as Director of Cleppa Park Research Station of the University of Wales, Cardiff, which became a hive of agro-ecological research activity. Not one to rest on his laurels, Peter subsequently coordinated an ambitious application to the European Union, for research into olive pest management in southern Europe. The proposed programme encompassed several countries (Greece, Spain, Italy and the UK) and several biological disciplines (chemical ecology, biological control, oil biochemistry). The award of around £5 million for the four-year ECLAIR programme was a major boost to the University’s international standing.
Despite his many accomplishments, Peter was a highly approachable and companionable person to work with. As a research director and conference organiser he was, by means of his inimitable charm, capable of reconciling even the most disparate viewpoints among participants, and kept proceedings on an even keel. Thanks to Peter, many of us have particularly fond memories of the ECLAIR programme. In all of his leadership roles, he took a keen interest in his colleagues irrespective of their position in the hierarchy, enquiring not only about their welfare but also that of their partners and children. These qualities, together with his energetic and cheerful attitude (which included a mischievous sense of humour and an extremely rich fund of genuinely interesting and amusing anecdotes), fostered a family atmosphere both in the workplace and in the conference room. When he retired from science and academia (finally settling in Sussex with his wife Aileen), his departure was widely felt not only in Cardiff but also in institutions worldwide.