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Dr Bryon Bache, Former Fellow of St Edmund's College

01 Aug 2022

We were saddened to learn of the death of Dr Bryon Bache on 23 June 2022 aged 91. Bryon became a Fellow of St Edmund’s College in 1992 having started life with a humble beginning in Gloucester. In early school years he won a scholarship to Crypt Grammar School where he flourished both academically and in sport, and was encouraged to apply to Oxford where he successfully gained a place at Keble College. After National Service in Germany, he took up his place at Oxford in 1951 and read Chemistry with Biochemistry, was active in the Christian Union and the college athletics club, and in a fourth year worked in a Soil Science laboratory which laid the foundation for his career as a soil scientist.

Bryon first came to Cambridge in 1955 as University Demonstrator in Soil Science at the School of Agriculture where he was responsible for lectures and practical classes in Soil Fertility and Management for the degree in Agriculture. In 1963, with Frances his wife who trained as a nurse, and at that time three young daughters, he sailed for Nigeria where he helped to start the agriculture faculty at the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria. This appointment signalled the expansion of his research interests in tropical agriculture but the Nigerian civil war intervened and he moved to the well known Macauley Institute for Soil Research in Aberdeen where he became Head of the Department of Soil Fertility. Here he worked on soil-nutrient-plant relationships and optimum economic crop production, as well as contributing to the Institute’s advisory role for farmers in the North of Scotland.

Cambridge beckoned and in 1984 he became University Lecturer in Soil Science at the Department of Applied Biology before transferring to the Department of Geography where, as a senior scientist he developed further his research into tropical soils in countries of the African continent and Latin America, and helped to start a Master’s course in Environment and Development. His expert knowledge was called upon by governmental departments and the UN when acid rain and its interaction with soils, surface waters and fisheries emerged as a major environmental problem in the 1970s and 1980s. Bryon’s publications, interdisciplinary collaborations and scholarly contributions to major scientific conferences reflect his international standing, prescient of today’s realisation that healthy soils have the potential to mitigate the impacts of greenhouse gases on climate change.

A Lay Reader in the Episcopalian church from his Scotland days, chair of the Refugee Support Group, tutor of a course on ‘Secrets of the soil’ at the University of the Third Age, and strong supporter of his local churches during his later Cambridge days, add to enduring memories for his close family and many friends, all part of Bryon’s lasting legacy in science and society.