Professor Alan Robertson Gemmell OBE JP (10 May 1913 - 5 July 1986) was Professor of Biology at Keele University and a regular member of the panel on the BBC Radio Home Service (later BBC Radio 4) programme Gardeners' Question Time from 1950 for some 30 years. Disagreements on the programme between Gemmell and fellow panel member Bill Sowerbutts became legendary.
Education and career
He was brought up in Troon and educated at Ayr Academy followed by Glasgow University where he gained a first class BSc in Botany and later, on a Commonwealth Scholarship, the University of Minnesota in 1935 where he did agricultural research in plant pathology gaining an MS in 1937. He specialised in the diseases of cereals but his first paper was published on the diseases of golf course greens.
Returning to Glasgow he obtained a PhD in 1939 and then at the West of Scotland Agricultural College (1937-41). He was a lecturer in Botany at Glasgow (1942–44); a biologist at West Midlands Forensic Science Laboratory (1944–45); lecturer in Botany at Manchester University (1945–50) before joining the then recently established University of Keele, the first new post-war British university which opened in 1950, where he stayed for 27 years as professor and later Emeritus.
He was instrumental in establishing the course in biology at Keele, which was not then offered in the UK. His career also took him to Tehran, Iran (then Persia) and Africa to establish similar courses.
On BBC Desert Island Discs he estimated he had appear on over 1,200 Gardeners Question Time programmes.
- BBC Desert Island Discs 1977, Accessed 30 December 2013
- The Week at Keele Keele University 16 December 2011, accessed 26 December 2011
- BBC Radio 4 website, accessed 26 December 2011
- Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry for Sowerbutts (subscription based, accessed 27 December 2011
- Gemmell, Prof. Alan Robertson Who Was Who A & C Black, 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007 accessed 27 Dec 2011