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Mark Purdey remembered

Mark Purdey, who was born Christmas Day, 1953, and was the father of eight children, fought for much of his life to identify the reasons for BSE, "mad cow" disease in cattle. A dairy farmer, Purdey believed that organophosphate pesticides were the cause. He did not prove his case before he died on November 12 of a brain tumour.

Mark Purdey stood in a great tradition of British agricultural enquiry and innovators. These were men such as Viscount ‘Turnip’ Townshend and Thomas Coke (previously a foreign adventurer) who dramatically improved crop yields by rotating crops; Jethro Tull, who transformed 3,000 years of farming and jumpstarted the green revolution by inventing the mechanized seed drill; and Robert Bakewell, George Culley, and the Colling brothers who expanded our food supply by selectively breeding farm animals for desired traits. Details in Ingenious Timeline

Purdey was particularly influenced by Albert Howard, who showed in 1940 that organic farming reduces pollution, increases the ability of plants to resist drought and weeds, and helps animals to resist disease. It is a lesson Mark Purdey took to heart. He will be missed.