Honorary degree for plant pioneer

14 Jul 2017 11:57:33.010

World leading botanist and pioneer of plant cell research, Professor Edward Cocking has been awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Nottingham in recognition of his achievements in the field of botanical research.

Professor Ted Cocking’s pioneering research spans more than five decades and has had, and continues to have significant global scientific, humanitarian and commercial impact. Initially his scientific research centred upon the development of bubonic plague vaccines. Later he used his knowledge to develop unique techniques for removing rigid plant cell walls with enzymes and isolating the living protoplast plant cells that enabled genetic manipulation by DNA transfer and fusion with other cells, enabling the growth of whole plants from cell products.

Ground-breaking research

This ground-breaking research paved the way for developments in plant biotechnology and genetic manipulation, culminating in his current work on intracellular bacterial nitrogen-fixation which could transform crop growth by significantly reducing the need for the use of nitrogen fertilisers.

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Ted started his career at Nottingham in 1959 as a lecturer in plant physiology and was based in the university’s first purpose built science building at University Park campus for Botany and Zoology – where he still has his office today. He quickly rose through the ranks to become Head of Department of Botany and Director of Biological Studies within 10 years, and for the next 30 years dedicated himself to botanical research and teaching until he became an Emeritus Professor in 1997. Since his appointment as Emeritus Professor he has remained scientifically and technologically very active in researching nitrogen fixation.

The honour comes as Professor Cocking enters his 58th year at the University of Nottingham, he says: “It’s wonderful to receive such an honour. A great deal of work has been done here since I published my first paper in Nature in 1960 – at the same time as I was getting married! I am extremely proud of the work that has been done here at the university and that continues to be done. My research has taken me around the world probably around ten times and opened up a whole world of plant cell biology. What has always been important to me is that research makes significant advances in the science and opens up new lines of research for others so we can create a snowball effect that will have a positive impact on the world.”

Bramley Apple

One of Ted’s major achievements has been safeguarding the future of the UK’s original 200- year-old Bramley Apple Tree, still alive in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, through the production of trees cloned from that original tree. There are now large numbers of cloned trees growing in commercial orchards in the Southwell area and an orchard of 12 cloned trees thriving in the Millennium Gardens on the university grounds.

A rare breed

Professor Simon Langley-Evans, Head of the School of Biosciences at the University of Nottingham says: “In the UK there are numerous scientists who are dedicated to their disciplines, undertake excellent research, publish extensively, and who have become famous for particular discoveries or innovations. Such individuals effectively manage large research teams or departments, make an effective contribution to key boards and committees and some are of that rarer breed who have become entrepreneurs. There are few who manage to combine all of these within a single career, Edward Cocking has been able to excel in all of these activities through his dedication to plant science and it’s wonderful this has been recognised with the award of this much deserved degree.

He continues: “His leadership in plant and cell and tissue culture, genetic manipulation and nitrogen fixation has resulted in his recognition nationally with the Fellowship of the Royal Society and also across the world. His infectious enthusiasm for his subject has been well recognised and appreciated by his former students, research visitors and colleagues. His ability to inspire, mentor and engage others means that many of his former colleagues now occupy, or have held, prestigious positions in universities, research institutes and agro-industry – a legacy of which we are all immensely proud.”

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Notes to editors: 

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage, consistently ranked among the world's top 100. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our 44,000 students - Nottingham was named University of the Year for Graduate Employment in the 2017 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, was awarded gold in the TEF 2017 and features in the top 20 of all three major UK rankings. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…


Story credits

More information is available from Professor Simon Langley-Evans on 0115 951 6139, Simon.Langley-evans@nottingham.ac.uk

Jane Icke - Media Relations Manager (Faculty of Science)

Email: jane.icke@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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