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Pioneering food scientist

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William Bate HardyWilliam Bate Hardy, born on 6 April 1864, was a biologist and food scientist whose work also greatly advanced physical chemistry. He was educated at the University of Cambridge, where he later lectured in histology, colloid chemistry and biophysics.

Hardy’s scientific work began in histology. Between 1892 and 1898 he published 11 papers on the morphology, function and behaviour of “wandering cells” (leucocytes) in crustaceans, amphibians and mammals. He contributed much to early knowledge of phagocytosis and of the immune response.

Despite little experience in physical chemistry, Hardy moved on to pioneering work on the stability and behaviour of colloidal systems, the theory of flocculation, protein ampholytes and the importance of the isoelectric point. He worked on the molecular physics of films, surfaces and boundary conditions, on static friction and the action of lubricants.

For all his successful work in physics, Hardy’s biological instinct remained. In 1902 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, serving as its biological secretary from 1915 to 1925. He was determined that the food industry should be founded and monitored on scientific principles. He organised a committee that advised the government on problems of food values, supplies and transport during wartime.

Between 1917 and 1928 he chaired the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research food investigation board. He was responsible for work carried out at the low temperature research station at Cambridge, the Ditton laboratory and the Torry research station, where developments included the gas storage of fruit, long-range transport of chilled beef and brine freezing of fish.

Hardy loved sailing and his yacht, Cockatoo, was equipped as a floating laboratory for marine biology. His interest in the sea included the chairmanship of an advisory committee for fisheries research from 1919 to1931.

Hardy was knighted in 1925 and died on 23 January 1934.

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