Solly Zuckerman: Agricultural Research Council

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The Agricultural Research Council was established in 1931. Solly Zuckerman was recruited to its membership in 1949 and served as a member of the Council until 1959.

SZ/ARC/2 Documents, 1949-1959, contains 11 sub-files consisting chiefly of numbered ARC papers relating to the business of the Council, its committees and the research establishments and units for which it was responsible. They include research proposals and progress reports on projects in receipt of ARC research grants. Research supported by the ARC ranged from fundamental research, such as that into the molecular structure of viruses carried out by Dr Rosalind Franklin at Birkbeck College under J.D. Bernal's direction, to studies of the design and construction of farm buildings and the use of plastic greenhouses. Among un-numbered papers are memoranda by Solly Zuckerman on the functions of the ARC, 12 November 1949, and its administrative structure, 8 August 1957.

SZ/ARC/3 Correspondence, 1949-1965, contains 83 sub-files, aranged alphabetically.

There is a degree of overlap between correspondence in this series and in series SZ/CIP and SZ/NRTC. The principal correspondence is with: W.G. Alexander, L.S. Porter, and P.A.C. Thorne (senior officials of the ARC); Lord Rothschild, its Chairman; and Sir William Slater, its Secretary. The correspondence touches on the broad range of Council business, including discussion of candidates for directorships of research establishments, but focusses chiefly on the work of the Institute of Animal Physiology, Babraham and its management, and the use of oestrogens (hexoestrol and stilboestrol) in fattening livestock. On misgivings among ARC officials, notably W.G. Alexander, over the management of Babraham Eddie Playfair - who, like Solly Zuckerman, took a more sanguine view - was moved to quote Rupert Brooke: Strong men have wept like babes, bydam, To hear what happened at Babraham.

The correspondence on oestrogens includes a number of communications with scientists in the United States, in particular those who Zuckerman met during the Laurentian Conference on Hormones, and with drug manufacturers such as Boots and Squibb. Correspondence with Lord Melchett and Michael Ward Walters relates to grass-drying experiments and trials of crops of lucerne on the Melchett estate at Walsingham, Norfolk, in relation to studies by the Council of protein in animal feed. Craig Wheaton-Smith was a livestock farmer consulted by Zuckerman on this subject and on livestock farming methods generally whose file includes a report on Charollais and Charollais cross cattle and correspondence on public attitudes historically to dark-coloured meat. The latter topic SZ took up with other correspondents.

Victor Rothschild was a personal friend of the Zuckermans. He was also engaged in research similar to that being carried out at the Department of Anatomy at Birmingham University. His correspondence includes subjects of a social nature and of mutual scientific interest. Among business matters dealt with is Zuckerman's dissatisfaction with the administration of the ARC, also the subject of his correspondence with Frank Yates and Frank Rayns.

A number of slim files of correspondence relate to the canvassing, by Zuckerman, of peer review of Professor Ronald Glover's studies in rheology.

SZ/ARC/4 Standing Committee on Research Affecting Plants and Soils, 1950-59, contains 11 sub-files, the contents of which consist almost entirely of numbered ARC papers, and the sub-files typically contain: annual reports from institutes and research stations for which the ARC was responsible; research proposals for which ARC grant-aid was sought and reports on research in progress; memoranda and reports solicited or commissioned by the ARC; and memoranda and reports from other ARC committees and groups (for example the Heather Sub-Committee of the Hill Farm Research Committee and the Committee on Research relating to Fruit Juices and Cider), and external bodies. Subject matter covers both agriculture and horticulture with an emphasis on plant and soil pests and diseases, including means of their control or eradication. Other areas are: soil microbiology; plant biochemistry; medicinal plants; protection of crops generally; methods to enhance crop yield and quality, including the use of fertilizers; plant breeding and genetics; and ecological studies. Among the research reports are accounts of Bill Pirie's work on leaf protein, an area of study with which the Grassland Research Station and Rowett Research Station were also associated.

SZ/ARC/5 Sub-Committee to Advise on the Relative Importance of Agricultural Research Problems, 1950-51, contains two sub-files. The contents, which are almost all numbered ARC papers, comprise memoranda and correspondence on the prioritisation of agricultural research. Evidence and views were submitted by the research stations and institutes supported by the ARC, universities, scientific societies, independent research organisations and associations, and individuals. Bill Pirie argued the case for leaf protein and related research, and there are several papers on bracken, a severe problem for hill farmers, including one submitted by Michael Noble.

SZ/ARC/6 Standing Committee on Research Affecting Animals, 1951-1959, contains 10 sub-files. The contents are almost exclusively numbered ARC papers and consist chiefly of annual reports of research stations and institutes supported by the ARC, research proposals for which grant-aid was sought, and progress reports on ARC-funded research. There is an emphasis on animal diseases and parasitic pests and methods of treating the former and eradicating both, animal breeding, and animal physiology. Other subjects covered include: meat and wool quality; protein in animal feed; the use of oestrogens in livestock fattening; and such problems as bracken-poisoning of cattle and the thickness of shells of hens' eggs. Reports on fundamental research supported include studies carried out by two of Solly Zuckerman's wartime colleagues, Hans Gruneberg and APD (Sandy) Thompson.

SZ/ARC/7 Research on leaf protein, 1951-53, contains two sub-files. Zuckerman chaired a group that oversaw research to develop on an industrial scale a means of extracting protein from leaves. Investigations supported by ARC funding were undertaken in several institutions including Rothamsted (Bill Pirie); the Grassland Research Station; the Rowett Research Institute; the University College of North Wales; and the National Institute of Agricultural Engineering. The Group considered the nutritional value of leaf protein, the feasibility and economics of large-scale production, and the question of the acceptability of products containing such protein to farmers and the potential market demand. The documents include reports of experimental work and trials, including one illustrated with photographs of prototype presses.

SZ/ARC/8 Technical Committee on Endocrinology, 1952-56, contains two sub-files. This was one of a number of technical committees set up by the ARC from time to time. It was established in October 1952 under the chairmanship of Dr S.J. Folley To keep under review research work in endocrinology as applied to farm animals, and to make recommendations to the Council's Standing Committee on Research affecting Animals for extending this work where it appears desirable. The Committee submitted a report to the Council in 1956 and was then dissolved. It met twice a year, usually in June and December. After the submission of the Committee's report the Council decided that some of those reports and memoranda submitted to the Committee should be made available to the research community (see Endocrinological problems in agriculture by Dr I.W. Rowlands, Nature, no. 4586, 21 September 1957 , a copy of which is in this file). Dr Rowlands was a member of the Committee. Zuckerman was not a member but its activities inevitably bore on the Council's investigation of the use of oestrogens in fattening livestock, with which he was associated.

SZ/ARC/9 Babraham Scientific Advisory Board, 1954-58, contains two sub-files. As with the other research institutes for which the ARC was responsible, the Council appointed a Visiting Group for the Institute of Animal Physiology, Babraham. The Group made its first visit in April 1954. Subsequent to this visit the Institute's Director, Ivan de Burgh Daly tendered his resignation in May 1955 on the grounds that the Council was placing unwarranted restrictions on his activities as Director. In the event Dr Daly did not resign and a Babraham Scientific Advisory Board was established under Solly Zuckerman's chairmanship. The other members were R.E. Glover, Professor Alan Hodgkin, and Professor Keilin. The Board convened for the first time on 26 April 1956, at Babraham. A key task of the Board was to ensure that the balance between fundamental research conducted at Babraham into animal physiology and that applied specifically to farm animals was acceptable to the ARC. In its first report the Board made it clear that the principle should be accepted at the outset that there is an essential link between veterinary and human physiology; physiological mechanisms and biochemical processes are sufficiently similar in all vertebrates for techniques and methods devised for physiological or pathological research in the one field to be capable of application or contribution to the other and it is often only at the final stages that work can be directed to specific practical ends. Sub-file SZ/ARC/9/2 includes a set of aerial photographs of the Institute.

SZ/ARC/10 Methods for determining the biological value of proteins, 1955-59, contains two sub-files. During the period covered by this file Zuckerman chaired a group set up by the ARC the task of which was, in his words to ascertain whether methods are available for equating nutritional values for animal feeding-stuffs and, if not, to devise some [minutes of the meeting held on 4 January 1956]. The Group's membership was a mixture of scientists, including representatives of the MRC and the Government Chemist's Department, and feed manufacturers (Bibby's, the Association of Fish Meal Manufacturers, Glaxo, and Unilever, for example). Bill Pirie's leaf protein research was among subjects studied.

The purpose of the ARC's field station at Compton, Berkshire (the subject of SZ/ARC/11 Compton Visiting Group, 1958) was to provide facilities for field experiments on cattle and other animals on a scale not possible elsewhere and to breed farm and laboratory animals of known health and history for use in research both at Compton and other centres. In 1954 the ARC Standing Committee on Research Affecting Animals set up a sub-committee to consider the future of Compton. Zuckerman was a member of the ARC Visiting Group, chaired by R.E. Glover, which visited the station in July 1958. The papers in this file relate to the outcome of the Sub-Committee's review, and to work in progress at Compton in 1958. They include a map of the site.

SZ/ARC/12 Oestrogens in the fattening of livestock, 1957-1960, contains two sub-files. On 10 January 1957 Solly Zuckerman chaired a meeting convened at the request of the ARC, MRC, and Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) to decide whether sufficient data were available on the risks, if any, to the human population arising out of the consumption of meat from animals which had been fed or implanted with stilboestrol, or whether further experimental evidence was required before any firm recommendations on the subject could be made. MAFF also wanted advice on the dangers, if any, to the animals themselves attendant on the administration of stilboestrol, and on any precautions or warnings thought to be necessary in making this material available. Discussions between MAFF and feed manufacturers on a voluntary code of practice relating to the use of stilboestrol were in progress at the time. The Group concluded that while present evidence did not permit any advice to be tendered on the use of stilboestrol or hexoestrol for sheep or pigs, it was, from the point of view of the consumer, safe to feed them to, or implant them in, fattening cattle but that for political reasons it would be desirable to carry out the experiment with labelled substances suggested by Sir Charles Dodds. From the point of view, however, of risk to the animals, further experiments to determine a safe dose were desirable. In June 1957 Zuckerman represented the ARC at a meeting chaired by Lord Luke to discuss whether experimental work on oestrogen implantation of cattle being conducted in Argentina had any relevance to the UK situation. The Group met again in January 1958 and reviewed research into the use of oestrogens for livestock fattening carried out in the UK and US. It also took note of the views of the MAFF Technical Advisory Committee on Meat Research. By this time the Group had before it sufficient evidence, particularly from America, to agree to recommend to the ARC that Agricultural Departments should be informed of the potential hazard involved, and advised to discourage the use of oestrogenic hormones for fattening livestock, whether by feeding or implantation, until further information is available. The Group also agreed that further experimental work should be carried out, and convened in May 1958 to discuss a programme of work. During Zuckerman's lengthy visit to America in 1959 he gathered more information on the stilboestrol/hexoestrol problem which he reported to the ARC on his return. In the light of this information and the passing of the Delaney Amendment by the US Congress, the Group re-convened, as the ARC/MRC Group on Oestrogens in Animal Feeding, on 31 March 1960 to try to formulate definite conclusions about the continued use of oestrogens in animal feeding which may form the basis of a further recommendation to Ministers from the Council [Chairman's Brief]. The minutes of this meeting are absent. Sub-file SZ/ARC/12/2 contains a number of UK and US research reports.

SZ/ARC/13 Joint Committee of the Agricultural Improvement Councils and the Agricultural Research Council, 1955-59, contains six sub-files.The Committee was chaired during the period covered by this file by Sir Edward Salisbury and Zuckerman was the ARC's representative. The contents consist chiefly of overviews and statistical surveys of agricultural and horticultural research.

SZ/ARC/14 Ministry of Agriculture Working Party on Toxic Chemicals used in Agriculture, 1950-56, contains seven sub-files. The Working Party was set up on 13 July 1950 To make recommendations for the safety of workers in the agricultural use of substances which are toxic or harmful to human beings; and in particular to advise on the recommendations on this subject made in the report of the Gowers Committee on health, safety and welfare in non-industrial employment. It was chaired by Solly Zuckerman and extended its enquiries into residues in food and risks to wildlife resulting from the use of agricultural chemicals. Over the period 1951-1955 it published three reports: Toxic chemicals in agriculture, HMSO, 1951 Toxic chemicals in agriculture. Residues in food, HMSO, 1953 ; and Toxic chemicals in agriculture. Risks to wild life, HMSO, 1955 . A bound set of these reports is available for consultation in the Archives Department. The contents of the file consist chiefly of evidence gathered by the Working Party and include a number of papers and reports from the United States, for example reports of the Congressional Committee investigating the use of chemicals in food and cosmetics. There is an emphasis on the effects of insecticides, including their effect on pollinating insects, but the contents also extend to the use of fertilizers and the fluoridation of drinking water. The correspondence is arranged chronologically. The principal correspondents were personnel in the Lord President's Office and the Ministries of Agriculture and Food responsible for secretariat services to the Working Party: K.R. Allen, H.E. Cox, R.A.E. Galley, and W.K. Melrose. Another regular correspondent was Brigadier A.H. (Tony) Pepys, Secretary of the British Field Sports Society. Other correspondents include: Max Nicholson (Director of the Nature Conservancy); Niko Tinbergen; Dr Rijno Smit (of the South African Department of Health and an old acquaintance of Zuckerman); Sir William Slater; and representatives of the food and pesticide industries. Some correspondence arises from personal approaches by members of the public, among which is a letter forwarded by Major C.W. Hume of the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare from a Dr von Dring, a vet in West Berlin, in which he reports on cases of domestic animals killed by pesticides. See also Series SZ/PSA and Sub-series SZ/ACSP/6, to which this file is complementary.


  • SZ/ARC/1 Agenda and minutes, 1949-1959 [in three sub-files]
  • SZ/ARC/2 Documents, 1943-44, 1949-1959
  • SZ/ARC/3 Correspondence, 1949-1965
  • SZ/ARC/4 Standing Committee on Research Affecting Plants and Soils, 1950-59
  • SZ/ARC/5 Sub-Committee to Advise on the Relative Importance of Agricultural Research Problems, 1950-51
  • SZ/ARC/6 Standing Committee on Research Affecting Animals, 1951-59
  • SZ/ARC/7 Research on leaf protein, 1951-53
  • SZ/ARC/8 Technical Committee on Endocrinology, 1952-56
  • SZ/ARC/9 Babraham Scientific Advisory Board, 1954-58
  • SZ/ARC/10 Methods for determining the biological value of proteins, 1955-59
  • SZ/ARC/11 Compton Visiting Group, 1958
  • SZ/ARC/12 Oestrogens in the fattening of livestock, 1957-1960
  • SZ/ARC/13 Joint Committee of the Agricultural Improvement Councils and the Agricultural Research Council, 1955-59
  • SZ/ARC/14 Ministry of Agriculture Working Party on Toxic Chemicals used in Agriculture, 1950-56

Conditions Governing Access

Please refer to the fonds-level description for GB 1187 SZ.



Other Finding Aids

In addition to the general guide described at fonds level, manuscript lists of the contents of files and sub-files, a manuscript draft calendar of the contents, and a typescript name index are available for consultation in the Archives Department.

Conditions Governing Use

Please refer to the fonds-level description for GB 1187 SZ.