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Kenneth Blaxter (animal nutritionist)

  (Redirected from Kenneth Lyon Blaxter)

Sir Kenneth Lyon Blaxter FRS PRSE FIBiol (19 June 1919 – 18 April 1991) was an English animal nutritionist.[1][2]

Sir Kenneth Lyon Blaxter
Born19 June 1919
Died18 April 1991 (aged 71)
OccupationAgriculturalist, biologist, researcher
Years active1948–1991
Known fordirecting the Rowett Research Institute
Spouse(s)Mildred Blaxter


Early lifeEdit

Blaxter was born on 19 June 1919 in Sprowston, England and grew up in Norfolk.[1] His father made handicrafts and his mother came from a family of farm workers.[1] Blaxter studied at the City of Norwich School until 1936. He was bored in school and received poor grades.[1] As a teenager, Blaxter spent his spare time at the Norfolk Agricultural Station, a short distance from the family home.[3] Soon after, he enrolled in day classes in agriculture at the Norfolk County Council, winning the class prize for the highest mark.[3] He also worked as a farmhand on a farm in Hoveton.[3]

Blaxter studied agriculture, biology and botany at the University of Reading in 1936, graduating in 1939.[1][3]

Nutrition researchEdit

After graduating, Blaxter worked at the National Institute for Research in Dairying (NIRD), located in Shinfield.[3] With the onset of World War II, Blaxter was conscripted and served with the 10th Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery from spring 1940 to the end of 1941, when he returned to NIRD.[3] At this time, he began to write his Ph.D thesis, entitled The maintenance of the winter milk supply in wartime; he completed the thesis in 1944.[3] Shortly thereafter, he requested to be seconded to the biochemistry department of the Ministry of Agriculture in Weybridge, where he conducted blood analysis and researched lead toxicity in ruminants.[3] In 1946, Blaxter moved to Illinois to work with animal nutritionist Harold Mitchell at the University of Illinois.[3]

Work as an independent scientistEdit

In 1947, after returning to England, Blaxter applied for the headship of the Nutrition Department at the Hannah Dairy Research Institute in Ayr, Scotland[1] and received the position in 1948.[3] During his tenure at the Hannah Dairy Research Institute, Blaxter wrote over 200 papers,[3] focusing primarily on the issues of energy metabolism and feed usage by ruminants.[3] Blaxter also investigated nutritional diseases and magnesium deficiency in calves, the effect of temperature and other environmental effects on sheep, and ruminant digestion and feed intake.[3]

In 1965, Blaxter was appointed director of the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland.[4][5] There, Blaxter and his team of researchers studied topics of importance to the Scottish farmer,[3] including deer farming, llamas,[6] human nutrition,[7] feed evaluation, environmental stress and animal calorimetry.[3] He also took an interest in agriculture and worldwide food policy, culminating in the publication of a book, Food, People and Resources, in 1986.[3]


Blaxter retired from the Rowett Research Institute in 1982.[6] From 1985 to 1991, Blaxter was a visiting professor in the University of Newcastle upon Tyne's Department of Agricultural Biochemistry and Nutrition. He also chaired a committee of the federal Department of the Environment and the Cabinet Committee on Individual Merit Promotion, a body that recognized and awarded candidates from various scientific fields.[3] He died on 18 April 1991 of a brain tumour.[1]

Honours and awardsEdit

Blaxter was named a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1967[7] and was knighted in 1977.[4] From 1972 to 1975, he served as vice-president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh,[8] and acted as its president from 1979 to 1982.[3] He also served a three-year term in the 1980s as President of the Institute of Biology. In 1979, he received the Wolf Prize in Agriculture for his research into the nutritional requirements of ruminants.[5] In 1992, he was posthumously awarded the Rank Prize in Nutrition [ru] for his lifetime contributions to nutrition science.[9]

Blaxter was also the recipient of honorary doctorates from Queen's University in Belfast, the Agricultural University in Norway, the University of Leeds, the University of Aberdeen and the University of Newcastle.[3]

Personal lifeEdit

Blaxter married sociologist Mildred Hall in 1957;[4] they had three children together.[4] Blaxter's cousin was Mary Lyon, the well-known British geneticist.[10] Blaxter was also an avid amateur painter.[3]


Blaxter was influential in the fields of animal and human nutrition and animal husbandry.[3] In Blaxter's memory, the British Society of Animal Science grants an annual scholarship, entitled the Kenneth Blaxter Award, to a deserving member of the Society in order to pursue short-term research in the animal sciences.[11]


  • The maintenance of the winter milk supply in wartime, Ph.D thesis (1944)
  • Food, People and Resources (1986)[3]
  • Energy Metabolism in Animals and Man (1988)[3]
  • The Post-war Revolution in Food Production (1989)[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 39: 36. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1994.0003
  2. ^ D. G. Armstrong, ‘Blaxter, Sir Kenneth Lyon (1919–1991)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2012 accessed 15 May 2013
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Waterlow, J. C.; Armstrong, D. G. (1994). "Kenneth Lyon Blaxter". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 39: 36–58. JSTOR 770168.
  4. ^ a b c d Popay, Jennie (21 September 2010). "Mildred Blaxter obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Sir Kenneth Blaxter Winner of Wolf Prize in Agriculture – 1979". Wolf Foundation. 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  6. ^ a b Smith, Graeme (15 June 1988). "Institute Marks 75 Years of Research". Google News. The Glasgow Herald. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Directors". University of Aberdeen. 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  8. ^ "Former Fellows of The Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002" (PDF). Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  9. ^ "Prizes awarded by the Human and Animal Nutrition and Crop Husbandry Fund". The Rank Prize Funds. c. 2012. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  10. ^ Gitschier, Jane (22 January 2010). "The Gift of Observation: An Interview with Mary Lyon". PLOS Genetics. 6 (1): e1000813. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000813. PMC 2809768. PMID 20107603.
  11. ^ "Kenneth Blaxter Award". British Society of Animal Science. 2015. Retrieved 15 February 2015.