Obituary: Professor Edmund Yemm

By Willis, Arthur | The Independent (London, England), December 6, 1993 | Go to article overview
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Obituary: Professor Edmund Yemm


Willis, Arthur, The Independent (London, England)


Edmund William Yemm, plant physiologist, biochemist and ecologist: born Countesthorpe, Leicester 16 July 1909: Melville Wills Professor of Botany, Bristol University 1955-74, Pro-Vice- Chancellor 1970-73; married 1935 Marie Solari (one son, three daughters); died Stanton Drew, Avon 22 November 1993.

EDMUND YEMM was head of the Department of Botany at Bristol University from 1955 to 1974, a Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the university and an outstanding plant physiologist and ecologist.

At Wiggeston School, in Leicester, Ted Yemm was not only a very able pupil but also a considerable athlete, being captain of rugby and cricket. An Open Scholarship took him to Queen's College, Oxford, where he was awarded First Class honours in Natural Sciences (Botany) and was a football Blue from 1)2vrBk$V-.}research, funded by a Christopher Welch Scholarship at Oxford, was guided by the renowned plant physiologist W. O. James. Methods for the assay of plant carbohydrates were developed, and Yemm's skill at the bench, his ability in experimentation and his rigorous interpretation became very clear.

This research, which was extended to many aspects of the respiration of barley, and later of nitrogen metabolism, led to important publications in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, the New Phylologist, the Biochemical Journal and other periodicals. Much light was thrown on the complex interrelationships between carbohydrate and nitrogen metabolism and the role of the amide glutamine. Such studies led to a Rockefeller Foundation award and visits to Cornell and Western Reserve Universities.

In 1938 Yemm was appointed Lecturer in Botany at Bristol University where, apart from national service, in which he was involved in radar and the development of penicillin, he spent the rest of his working life. He was made a Reader in 1950, Professor of Botany in 1955, Dean of the Faculty of Science 1962-65 and later a Pro-Vice-

Chancellor. As a teacher, he was first class, his breadth of knowledge and lucid exposition being much appreciated by undergraduates. Research students remember him especially for his superb supervision, involving most carefuly designed experiments and thorough and questioning interpretation.

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