Robert B. Mellor

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Robert B. Mellor
Yorkshire, UK
Alma materNewcastle University
Known forContributions to biological, environmental and economic sciences
Scientific career
FieldsNatural Sciences and Computing
InstitutionsKingston University,
IT University of Copenhagen,
University of Göttingen ,
University of Basel
Marburg University
ThesisThe nodulation of legumes (DSc) (1997)
InfluencesPyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin, Joseph E Stiglitz, Harry Beevers.
Proud father of two wonderful daughters

Robert Brooke Mellor (born Yorkshire, UK) is a British scientist, probably best known for his "unified vacuole theory" which states that in plant endosymbioses generally, the micro-symbiont and the macro-symbiont share their lytic vacuolar compartments [4]. This stems from his earlier symbiosome (or "symbiosome is a lysosome" theory) which states that the organelle that microsymbionts inhabit, partially takes over the lysosomal functions in these cells, analogous to the role of protein bodies in seeds (Mellor, 1989) in particular that the rhizobial symbiosome is an organ-specific form of lysosome in legume root nodules. This enables the symbionts to share parts of their metabolism, especially nitrogen metabolism, in (terminally) differentiated cells.

The Marburg and Basel Years (plant biology)[edit]

Mellor was also very interested in how plants distinguish between symbiotic and pathogenic infections and in 1984 set about measuring defence responses in nodules infected with different rhizobial mutants and it gradually appeared that in Rhizobia the nod genes are responsible for producing different nod factors (lipo-chitin molecules) and that amongst their many effects was that they can provoke plant defence responses, so that it was essential that these genes were switched off (by molecules called "nodoffs") after infection, or that symbiosis could not take place. This convincing model won general acclaim and indeed the paper with David Collinge [5] was later reprinted (Mellor and Collinge, 1995) as that year’s number one most important publication in the area [1] .

In other works R. B. Mellor has claimed that in legumes the root nodule cytoplasm may be under water stress and the plant may combat this by using bacterial/fungal trehalose. The concept has been repeatedly confirmed e.g [2]. and indeed, this effect explains why nodulated plants have a higher drought-tolerance than non-nodulated plants [3], which clearly is becoming an important issue in climate change.

The Göttingen Years (environmental nanotech)[edit]

However Mellor was also interested in applied science and after leaving the University of Basel he became Director of R&D at a German chemical company where he invented and patented a system to power immobilized oxido-reductase enzymes and artificial co-factors using electrical power out of a domestic socket.[4] The impact of this breakthrough was absolutely enormous: For example, twenty-five years later the authors Eltarahony et al [6] in their round-up review paper state that "... Mellor et al. [1992] pioneered the concept of current promotion, electrode bioreactor and denitrification control, this concept, [is now] widely used to treat different types of wastewater, such as toxic and refractory organic wastewater as well as wastewater containing heavy metal ions. ... "

The London Years (computing and maths)[edit]

In early 2000 Mellor joined and helped start-up the IT University of Copenhagen [7], alongside Mads Tofte and others, and subsequently in 2005 became Director of Enterprise at Kingston University [8], London (incidentally, quadrupling enterprise income) in Computing, Information Systems and Mathematics, while teaching innovation and the mathematical modelling of business processes at MSc level. In 2011 his computer modelling of the "Knowledge-Based View of the Firm" (Knowledge Management and Information Systems: Strategies for Growing Organizations', 2011) resulted in a complete explanation of the developmental life-cycle of SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises ... see also his paper "Big Data Modelling the Knowledge Economy" [5]).

He runs a select "Big Data" research group modelling organizations, especially Science & Technology Parks, in the context of regional development and welcomes enquiries about self-funded PhD projects from motivated individuals interested in pursuing doctoral studies.

Most recently, working together with his friend Dr Matthias Georg Will [9], an econometric computer model was developed which explains why, in modern business environments, flat organizations can only exist if employees are able to competently evaluate incoming innovations and their judgement is accepted by their managers, a situation typified by the successful tech firms. This is because, as Mellor pointed out, the benefits of a successful innovation are smaller than the losses incurred by adopting a poor innovation. Thus, if employees cannot distinguish between "good" and "bad" innovations, then the formation of poorly-performing hierarchies in firms is inevitable and surprisingly sustainable [6].


Robert B Mellor BSc, PhD, DSc was the first member of his family to ever attend university, nonetheless he has taught fluently in a range of languages at the University of Basel (founded 1460), Copenhagen's University (founded 1479), the University of Marburg (founded 1527) and has delivered invited lectures at many other Universities around the globe. Today he is author of over 100 scientific publications in reputable journals as well as eleven books, several of which have been translated into other languages. His impact factor (h-Index) is 25, putting him well into the top decile (10%) of researchers world-wide. He is an active consultant with over twelve years industrial experience and he lectures at postgraduate level on subjects like ‘information systems and econometrics’, ‘mathematical knowledge management’, ‘strategic innovation’ and ‘tech entrepreneurship’. He has received many international prizes for his work and ideas.


  • Mellor, R.B., J. Ronnenberg, W.H. Campbell and S. Diekmann (1992): Reduction of nitrate and nitrite in water by immobilized enzymes. Nature, 355, 717-719.
  • Mellor, R.B.: The nodulation of legumes. (1996). DSR Forlag, Copenhagen. ISBN 87-7432-466-7
  • Mellor, R.B.: Bacteroids in the Rhizobium-legume symbiosis inhabit a plant internal lytic compartment: Implications for other microbial endosymbioses. J Exp. Bot., 40, 831-839 (1989)
  • Mellor, R.B. (1992): Is trehalose a symbiotic determinant in symbioses between higher plants and micro-organisms? Symbiosis, 12, 113-129
  • Farias-Rodrigues, R., R.B. Mellor, C. Arias and J.J. Pena-Cabriales (1998): Trehalose accumulation in several cultivars of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L) and its correlation to drought stress. Physiol. Plant., 102, 353-359.
  • Werner, D., R.B. Mellor, M.G. Hahn and H. Grisebach (1985): Soybean root response to symbiotic infection: Glyceollin accumulation in an ineffective type of nodule with an early loss of the peribacteroid membrane. Z. Naturforsch., 40, 171-181.
  • Mellor, R.B. and D.B. Collinge (1995): A simple model based on known plant defence reactions is sufficient to explain most aspects of nodulation. J. Exp. Bot., 46, 1-18.
  • Mellor, R. B. (2018) Big data modelling the knowledge economy. International Journal of Knowledge-Based Development, 9 (3), 206-220.
  • Will, M. G., Al-Kfairy, M. and Mellor, R. B. (2019) How organizational structure transforms risky innovations into performance: a computer simulation. Simulation Modelling Practice and Theory, 94, 264-285.



  1. ^ [1] JEB
  2. ^ [2] Kosar, F., Akram, N.A., Sadiq, M. et al. J Plant Growth Regul (2019) 38: 606
  3. ^ [3] Physiol Plant
  4. ^ Nature
  5. ^ IJKBD
  6. ^ Simpat

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