Claude Wilson Wardlaw was born on 4th February 1901, the son of Major J.Wardlaw, and was educated at Paisley Grammar school. He graduated with first-class honours in botany from Glasgow University in 1922. He was appointed lecturer there in 1925 and gained the degrees of Ph.D. and D.Sc. He also spent time researching at Imperial College, London and studying Alpine botany in Geneva. In 1927 he was elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
In 1928 he accepted the appointment as pathologist for banana research at the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture, Trinidad, and in 1933 became officer-in-charge of the Low-Temperature Research unit at Trinidad. During these years he published widely on the physiology, pathology and storage of tropical crops. His book Diseases of the Banana, originally published in 1935, was later extended and revised and appeared in new editions (under the title Banana Diseases) in 1961 and 1971. It is generally accepted as the standard work on the subject. He also published an account of his early years in Trinidad, Green Havoc in 1935. He joined the Trinidad Volunteer Regiment, and eventually retired as a Lieutenant–Colonel.
Wardlaw returned to England in 1940, to take up the appointment as Barker professor of cryptogamic botany at the University of Manchester. As well as launching his own research programme into plant morphogenesis, he encouraged the expansion of other research topics in the department. For example, during his time in Trinidad Wardlaw had become deeply interested in plant pathology and mycology, and he promoted these areas in his new department. In the 1950s he was greatly influenced by Alan Turing’s diffusion reaction theory of morphogenesis, which Wardlaw described as “a source of inspiration”.
Wardlaw was also keen to work with private companies to promote mutual interests in research. In 1944 he had been appointed academic consultant at ICI, Trafford Park, Manchester, to advise on penicillin production. Once the war ended, Wardlaw maintained interests in research relating to national food supply and the pharmaceutical industry. He convinced the University to fund two new assistant lecturer posts, in 1946 and 1947, and he negotiated a number of ICI-funded research projects.
He published a number of books during his time in Manchester, most notably Morphogenesis which appeared in 1952; this was followed by Embryogenesis in Plants (1955) and Organisation and Evolution in Plants (1965). Following his retirement he published Morphogenesis in Plants: A Contemporary Study (1968); and the collections Essays on Form in Plants (1968) and Cellular Differentiation in Plants and Other Essays (1969). Professor Wardlaw was also active outside his own department, becoming dean of the Faculty of Science in 1950 and 1951, and pro-vice-chancellor between 1953-1957. In1958 he was appointed George Harrison professor of botany and director of the Experimental Grounds, the senior botany post at Manchester.
In the post-war years Wardlaw undertook numerous field trips to advise and report on tropical fruit production. The archive contains copies of many of his reports, written for companies such as the Standard Fruit and Steamship Company of America.
Wardlaw was recipient of many official and professional appointments: he was a Foreign Correspondent of the Academie D’Agriculture de la France; in 1954 he became a member of the Council of University College, Ibadan; and he was appointed as the representative of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to the governing body of the National Vegetable Research Station, 1955.
Wardlaw married Jessie Connell in 1928, and they had two sons. Following her death, in 1971, he wrote an account of his wife’s life and artistic accomplishments A Quiet Talent: Jessie Wardlaw, 1903-1971. Claude Wardlaw died on 16th December 1985.