Sir Rutherford Ness (Bob) Robertson was one of Australia' most distinguished, influential and respected scientists. He was eminent both for his contributions to scientific thought and knowledge and for the remarkable range of activities he undertook in the cause of science. His contributions to our understanding of the bioenergetics of inorganic ion transport in plant cells were widely recognized. In his other life he served in several key administrative–managerial positions, was the prime mover in a variety of major initiatives that had critical and lasting impacts on the development of Australian science and was a trusted friend and adviser to a generation of younger plant scientists. Known universally as Bob and almost universally addressed as such, it would seem odd and almost disrespectful not to refer to him in this way here.
In the following account we draw heavily on four sources of information about Bob's life and work. These are a Personal Record submitted to the Royal Society (Robertson 1991), the transcript of an interview conducted for the Australian Academy of Science (Robertson 1993), an autobiographical article written for the Annual Review of Plant Physiology and Plant Molecular Biology (23)* and a personal account of his involvement in the field of charge separation and energy transduction in biological membranes (24).