The Gordon Memorial Trust

Dr R (Bob) F Gordon

The Robert Fraser Gordon Memorial Trust is a charity that was established in 1982. The Trust’s primary function is to select a person each year who has made distinguished contributions to a branch of poultry science. That person may be of any nationality. The recipient of the award is required to deliver a lecture and receives a medal to commemorate the occasion.

The Gordon Memorial Lecture is held at the Annual Spring Meeting of the UK Branch of the World’s Poultry Science Association. To see a list of the previous recipients, please click here.

History of the Memorial Trust

After the death of Dr R (Bob) F Gordon in 1981 it was decided at Houghton Poultry Research Station that his life and contribution to veterinary science and the poultry industry should be commemorated. The Robert Fraser Gordon Memorial Trust was established in 1982 with the financial support of the poultry industry to enable an annual lecture in his name. The Trust was recognised as a charity and there were five Trustees: the Director of Houghton Poultry Research Station, and representatives of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, the British Veterinary Poultry Association, British Poultry Federation and the United Kingdom Branch of the World’s Poultry Science Association.

The Trustees primary function is to select each year a person of any nationality who has made distinguished contributions to a branch of poultry science. A silver medal to be presented to each lecturer was designed with a portrait of Dr Gordon with the inscription “Robert Fraser Gordon 1908-1981” on one side and Light Sussex chickens and Houghton Grange on the other. The first lecture took place in 1983 in London at the Spring meeting of the United Kingdom Branch of the World Poultry Science Association.

Dr Robert Fraser Gordon

Robert Fraser Gordon was born and educated in Aberdeen, graduating in 1930 with a degree in Zoology and Geology. He soon realised, however, that his aspirations lay in veterinary, rather than natural, science. On qualifying at the Royal Veterinary College, London, in 1933, Bob Gordon went to the Central Veterinary Laboratory, Weybridge, where he became Head of the Poultry Diagnostic Department.

At Weybridge, he specialised in avian salmonellas and was responsible for developing the methods of eradicating Salmonella pullorum from UK flocks. His achievements were recognised by the University of Aberdeen which awarded him a Doctorate of Science in 1947.

In 1948, at the age of 39, he set up, on behalf of the Animal Health Trust, a research station devoted entirely to poultry and their diseases. It is a measure of the man that he was prepared to accept the manifold problems of the project which, whilst having the allure of being unique, was, nevertheless, concerned with an area of agriculture that had previously been ignored. The appointment was well timed, for the poultry industry was emerging from the back-yard to become second only to the dairy and beef industry. It is difficult now to appreciate the problems Dr Gordon then faced, but he solved them and at the same time created a milieu conducive to the conduct of a rigorous scientific programme.

Throughout his career he gave unstintingly of himself to the poultry industry and the veterinary profession both at home and abroad. This was recognised by his appointment as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1972. Dr Robert Fraser Gordon, CBE, DSc, DVSc, FRCVS, died in February 1981.

The Medal

The medal is made of silver and bears a portrait of Dr Gordon with the inscription ‘Robert Fraser Gordon 1908-1981’.

The reverse of the medal shows a cockerel and hen from the Light Sussex breed, with Houghton Grange and the outline of a red chestnut (Aesculus x carnea), a tree much loved by the family, in the background.

The Gordon Memorial trustees

  • Mr Stephen Lister, BSc BVetMed CertPMP DiplECPVS MRCVS, (Chairman), representing the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
  • Dr Kannan Ganapathy, representing the British Veterinary Poultry Association
  • Prof Emily Burton, (Secretary) representing the WPSA UK Branch
  • Dr Victoria Sandilands, (Treasurer) representing British Poultry Science journal

Professor Peter M Biggs, CBE FRS, Founder Trustee, was a trustee until his death in December 2021. He was the inspiration for the founding of the Trust. He also secured the necessary funds to finance the Trust. Since that time, he has been a trustee and for many years was the chairman. He therefore was closely associated with the Trust for 40 years. The trustees agreed that we will miss his wide experience, advice, and gentle manner. Among many obituaries published about Peter, one from the Royal Society, where Peter was elected as a Fellow in 1976, and a longer one published in the Avian Pathology Journal.