The "Glenn Baggott" Letter

From: Glenn Baggott
Cc: Patricia de Winter
Subject: Memories of Edwin Yerbury


I was at Liverpool Collegiate School from 1962/3 until I left for Bristol university in 1966.

I had arrived in Liverpool in the last years of O level course, leaving behind the London school that contained most of The Who, and although I wanted to do Biology, the School did not consider it a boy's subject and so it was taught only at A level, only by Edwin Yerbury. He was very important in my education for the following reasons.

Mr Yerbury (as we knew him) had taught at the school since before WW2 and was just about to retire. In the early 1940s , I believe it was then, he had taught George Hughes, who in 1966 was Professor and Deparmental head of Zoology at Bristol, having moved from Cambridge. George Hughes was an extremely influential comparative respiratory physiologist and coincidentally, or not, Edwin Yerbury had been a student of Sir Joseph Barcroft in the 1920s at Oxford. Barcroft was also a respiratory physiologist, he was leader of one of the two research groups that elucidated the fundamentals of human adaptations to high altitude, leading an expedition to the Andes. The other centre was at University College London led by J S Haldane, whose high altitude expeditions were to Pike's peak and the Alps.

When I applied to Bristol to read Zoology George Hughes offered me a place with two E's: I did a bit better than that though (although I failed Chemistry S level because nobody told me I had been entered for it!). I'm sure that without the Collegiate link it would have been more difficult for me to secure a place at Bristol as I was one of the working class baby-boomers. Bristol was much more elitist then. Incidentally, although at that time and for my PhD and postdoctoral research I was concerned with bird migration and lipid metabolism, I did spend most of the 1980's researching respiratory physiology of the avian embryo. Coincidence? Or the long reach of Barcroft-Yerbury-Hughes?

Incidentally George Hughes died a few years ago but his son keeps a tribute website going.

(P.S.  I recollect that we - the biology A level students, of which there were only maximum of 8 - we're extremely mean to him as Mr Yerbury was very, very short, almost completely bald with a broad Dorset accent.)

Dr Glenn K Baggott
Assistant Editor, British Poultry Science,
Website - Incubation and Fertility Research Group
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