Citations and Speeches


159th Congregation (2000)

Malcolm PEAKER
D.Sc., F.R.S.E., F.R.S.

The Public Orator, Professor M.M.M. Chan, MA, MPhil, wrote and delivered the following citation:

For our next honorand this occasion is in the nature of a homecoming. After graduating with a first class Special Honours degree in Zoology from the University of Sheffield Malcolm Peaker came to Hong Kong more than thirty years ago on a Science Council NATO Scholarship, bringing with him his wife. He did research in our Department of Zoology under the supervision of Professor John Philips. He also served as Demonstrator, as did his wife, in the Department of Zoology from 1966 to 1968. He obtained his Ph.D. in 1968. Subsequently, in 1990, he received a D.Sc. from the University of Sheffield.

After obtaining his Ph.D. from our University Malcolm Peaker returned to the United Kingdom, working for ten years, between 1968 to 1978 as part of the scientific staff of the Institute of Animal Physiology, Babraham, Cambridge, rising to become Principal Scientific Officer in 1974. He then became Head of the Department of Physiology, Hannah Research Institute and Honorary Lecturer in the University of Glasgow. He is now Director of the Hannah Research Institute in Ayr, Scotland and Hannah Professor in the University of Glasgow, where he is a member of the Policy and Planning Committee of the Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, and Honorary Member of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

The Hannah Research Institute is an internationally recognized centre of scientific excellence, and as Director, Professor Peaker has a mandate to promote its role in national and international wealth creation and in enhancing the quality of life. The Institute is involved essentially in two areas of research. The first is biological sciences and the second is food sciences. It has made tremendous contributions to developments in agriculture, biotechnology, food and pharmaceuticals.

The biological sciences research extends from whole animals to molecular biology. Since 1968 Malcolm Peaker has done a great deal of work on the interaction between the mother and the offspring, primarily relating to lactation and its control. Today he is still engrossed in research into the mechanism and control of milk secretion. The research extends from the milk of dairy animals to the milk of human beings and of birds. Professor Peaker is a recognized expert in the field of lactation and this is attested to by the number of invited lectures he has delivered on the subject, for example, "Breast Feeding and the Mother", at the Ciba Foundation Symposium held in London in 1976, "Hormones and the Breast" for the 1977 Society for Endocrinology Symposium, "Milk Composition" for the Nutrition Society, Ayr, 1983, "Mammary Development and Cancer" at the Annual Symposium of the biochemical Society in Liverpool in 1996 and "Nutrition and Lactation" or the Rank Prize Funds Symposium, Grasmere, 1997. The subject of lactation is a recurrent theme running through his research for decades. A discovery which is useful to the dairy industry and indeed to understanding the mechanism of demand feeding in humans is that supply is matched by demand. The demand controls the rate of formation of the milk. There is no belittling the importance of milk and of this area of research. As one wit has put it, "Man should go out of this world as he came in, chiefly on milk."

Shaw has written, "There is no love sincerer than the love of food". The other aspect of the Hannah Institute's work is food sciences, and here Professor Peaker and his colleagues have the opportunity of working to control taste, to make particular items of food inspire an even sincerer love. "Man cannot live on bread alone". He needs, among other staples, not to mention delicacies, dairy-based food like cheese, fresh fruits and also drinks, for some of us these include alcoholic drinks. At the Institute work is done on how to control and modify the taste of food items. This work is almost always done in close conjunction with the commercial sector, and is concerned with consumer preferences. On the food science side work is also done in protein engineering and physical sciences. We cannot overstate the importance of this work in the promotion of health-- after all, "Whatever Miss T eats becomes Miss T".

Professor Peaker leads an extremely active professional life: his CV lists a staggering number of current and past professional activities. To just read out a partial listing is exhausting; to actually undertake the work requires tremendous dedication, energy and commitment, not to mention, of course, expertise. He is on the editorial boards of a number of professional journals, including one based in Saudi Arabia. Since 1987 he has been Convenor of the Directors of the Scottish Agricultural and Biological Research Institutes; he has been Chairman of the Scottish Management Advisory Committee since 1994, member of the International Circle of Dairy Research Leaders since 1981 and of the Novartis Foundation Media Resources Service since 1985. Appointed by the Royal Society he has been Scientific Governor, British Nutrition Foundation since 1997. He has been active on innumerable government committees related to animals, birds, fisheries, agriculture, biology, zoology, veterinary science and food. Among many other contributions to public affairs, he has provided yeoman service to the Zoological Society of London, serving in many capacities including as Chairman of the London Zoo Board from 1992-3. Though based in Ayr, Scotland, Professor Peaker travels widely in connection with his professional activities. He has been a Distinguished Visitor and invited speaker in places as diverse as Manila, New Hampshire, Guelph, Sydney, Lillehammer, not to mention places closer to home.

I must repeat that I am not attempting an exhaustive list of his appointments, membership of committees, membership/fellowship of learned institutions and societies.

He was elected Scientific Fellow of the Zoological Society of London as long ago as 1969; he has been a member of the Physiological Society since 1972 and of the Society for the Study of Fertility since 1979; he was elected Fellow of the Institute of Biology the same year. In 1983 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and then Fellow of the Royal Society in 1996, a crowning achievement for decades of ground-breaking research which indeed go towards "national and international wealth creation" and the enhancement of "the quality of life".

Malcolm Peaker, to use a Chinese phrase, "has not forgotten his origins". Though he revisited the University for the first time only four years ago, he keeps close contact with former colleagues and friends. He is always pleasantly surprised when, far from home, at conferences and seminars, he meets once more friends, former colleagues and fellow researchers from his Hong Kong University days. He took time from his hectic schedule to serve as our External Examiner in Zoology between 1997 and 1999. He speaks of his time in Hong Kong with enthusiasm and delight. He does very little teaching now, giving only a few lectures in Glasgow and concentrating almost entirely on his research. But he professes he thoroughly enjoyed his time with us in the Department of Zoology. One of the highpoints of his career here was his appearance in a series of live animal children's programmes for the, then, Rediffusion (Hong Kong) during 1967-68. He recalls he was paid the princely sum of $200 per programme plus taxi fare.

Today Professor Peaker is not content to rest on his laurels but feels there are more mountains to climb, more streams to ford. In his leisure he, to use his own words, "tries to play golf", tries, because he modestly claims he is suffering from "lack of practice and lack of potential." Samuel Johnson has stated in his pedantic way: "The life devoted to knowledge passes silently away and is little diversified by event." This judgement certainly cannot be applied to Malcolm Peaker, FRS, a man who has lived a full and eventful life, a man who has not lost his sense of humour and spirit of fun, a man who is as "full of the milk of human kindness" as of knowledge and intellect. For his valuable contributions to biological and food sciences I call upon you to confer upon Professor Malcolm Peaker the degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa.