Elected F.R.S. 1968
Dr Phillip Nutman was a microbiologist and plant physiologist, distinguished for his research into the infection of roots of legumes by root nodule bacteria of the genus Rhizobium. This is a subject that is truly symbiotic, involving both leguminous host plants and free–living soil bacteria, which join in a complex, often specific interaction to produce symbiotic, nodulated, nitrogen–fixing plants. His research pre–dated the molecular genetics now available to modern researchers and used the techniques of plant physiology and Mendelian genetics to explore the mechanisms of infection, subsequent nodule development and the symbiotic fixation of atmospheric nitrogen. The research took place in the laboratories and fields of Rothamsted Experimental Station, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, where the study of nitrogen fixation by nodulated legumes first developed in the UK (Russell 1966). There were components of related research in Australia, 1953–57 (Bergersen 2001), and also in other countries during the International Biological Programme of 1966–73, in which Nutman was an active participant. He was a well–respected leader in active research during a period in which the subject underwent rapid development. In many ways his work became the basis on which more recent research has developed. He was a modest, self–effacing, scrupulously honest man who became increasingly impatient with the methods of research management that were emerging within the Agriculture and Food Research Council towards the end of his career at Rothamsted. After his retirement, in his Personal Record, he wrote critically about these matters.