In memory of Professor John F Peberdy MBE (1937-2020)

Posted on June 15, 2020   by Dr Paul Dyer and Professor Rosie Bradshaw

John F Peberdy MBE, Emeritus Professor of Biotechnology and Enterprise at the University of Nottingham, sadly passed away on 14 May 2020. Here, Dr Paul Dyer and Professor Rosie Bradshaw reflect on John's life and his impact on the mycology community. 

John in Edinburgh at the ninth European Conference on Fungal Genetics, which he helped to organise.

John Peberdy passed away peacefully on 14 May 2020 following a battle with cancer. His research field was in fungal biochemistry and genetics, in which he was a pioneer in fungal protoplasts and ran one of the first labs to achieve fungal transformation. John was a long-time member of the Microbiology Society (previously the Society for General Microbiology), which he joined as a PhD student. John served on the Society’s Council and was an active member of the Eukaryotic Division sub-committee. John was also a past President (1984-1985) and programme secretary of the British Mycological Society, and had been their meetings manager for several years up to and including 2008.

John studied botany at Kings College, Newcastle (which was then part of Durham University) where he became fascinated with microbiology and with fungi in particular. He studied for a PhD in fungal biochemistry at the University of Nottingham, where he began to appreciate the great potential for exploitation of fungi in a range of applications. Next, John worked briefly in industry at a Water Pollution Research Laboratory before returning to academia, first in a lecturing position at the University of Hull, before moving back to the University of Nottingham for a lectureship in Microbiology in 1966. He spent the rest of his career at Nottingham where he was promoted to a Professorship in 1984 and was Head of the School of Life Sciences from 1996–1998.

John had many wide-ranging impacts during his career. He developed his interests in the practical exploitation of fungi through a variety of projects including protoplast fusion, investigations into the genetics of fungal secondary metabolite production, cultivation of edible mushrooms, and use of fungi to convert waste resources. John mentored over 50 PhD and Master’s students, many European exchange students and had numerous international collaborators in North America, Europe and South-east Asia. He authored over 190 publications.

John also developed a keen interest in the field of biotechnology, where he established a small company and most notably founded a national UK Universities competition the 'Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme’. The ‘Biotechnology YES’ scheme proved very popular over many years and in 2000 John was awarded an MBE for services to student entrepreneurship. He also became an Emeritus Professor of Biotechnology and Enterprise at the University of Nottingham Business School until his final retirement in 2015. John was also very active in promoting fungal biology at an international level, where he helped organise many meetings. One lasting legacy is that John proposed and launched the first European Conference on Fungal Genetics (ECFG), which was held at the University of Nottingham in1992. These ECFG meetings continue to run biennially and have proved very popular. John also had outside interests, particulary in gardening, trains and the rail industry, even cycling from Nottingham to Grantham and back for trainspotting in his youth. He also enjoyed fine wines, perhaps linked to his appreciation of fungal fermentations. John’s passions for microbiology and for training young researchers and entrepreneurs to apply their scientific and technical knowledge continue to be inspirational and he will be greatly missed.