Born: April 17, 1932;

Died: January 21, 2023

Professor John E Smith’s scientific journey began with a consuming interest in plants, both his father and grandfather being intrepid horticulturists. His academic career took root at Eastwood High School and later, heading for Glasgow University, his interests propelled him in the direction of botanical studies.

He was elected president of the University Botanical Society and graduation saw him with a first class Honours B.Sc. His next target was a Ph.D. and with a keen spirit of adventure he set out for the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. Winters there were severe but did not impair his Ph.D. studies on sunflowers.

In conjunction with his academic studies, there was a requirement at that time for “alternative national service” which involved joining the Winnipeg Rifles Reserves. During his research studies Evelyn joined him and a year later they married, the first of their three children arriving just as John was completing his studies.

They decided to return home and John obtained a a junior lectureship in the then Royal College of Science and Technology, later to become the University of Strathclyde. By 1977 he was appointed Professor of Applied Microbiology and a flavour of his achievements can be gathered from the titles of some of his books such as The Filamentous Fungi ; The Genetics and Physiology of Aspergillus; Mycotoxins: Formation, Analysis and Significance; The Applied Mycology of Fusarium; and Biotechnology.

His contributions in many scientific papers, with many important collaborators and students from home and abroad, highlight his research on large-scale fermentation technology as well as the problems of fungal aflatoxins in human health and latterly the anti-cancer potential of Shitake mushrooms.

In the 1980s the university created the Department of Bioscience and Biotechnology and it was appropriate that John became its initial chairman. In his view, biotechnology covered techniques that have been applied for centuries to produce such as beer, wine, cheese, microorganisms as well as the modern techniques of genetic engineering.

An interesting experience was with the late Dr David Kelly, then UK Government’s biological warfare expert, whose apparent suicide 20 years ago in a wood near his home is still shrouded in mystery. Kelly sought John’s expertise and knowledge of a fermentation plant near Baghdad that he could not locate. Because of this, Kelly invited John, in a phone call from the UN in New York, to join him in helping to investigate the purpose of the mysterious facility. However within the next weeks, the Iraq war began, even though there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction, biological or otherwise.

The quintessential family man, John is survived by his wife Evelyn of 65 years. His great joys in life were his three children, nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Retiral saw him do more in his garden and sometim es on the golf course, as well as serving as chairman of the Strathendrck Probus Club.

His prowess as an acknowledged authority on the biotechnology of fungi was recognised with Fellowships of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and of the Royal Society for Biology. Overall he was a wise, friendly and gentle man who inspired colleagues and students alike.