23 September 1928 – 14 June 2018
Dr Peter Edmund Lake passed away suddenly but peacefully on 13th June 2018 aged 89 years at a care home in Annan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland. His home of 66 years had been Edinburgh where he devoted his entire working life (1951-1988) to avian research, specifically but not exclusively relating to the domestic fowl. He established a world-wide reputation in the field of artificial insemination that had wide ranging benefits for the poultry industry in Britain and around the world.
Dr Lake had a degree in Zoology from Birmingham University (1949), a diploma in Agriculture from Christ's College, Cambridge (1950) and a PhD in avian reproductive physiology from Edinburgh University (1955). In 1951 he took a post as a Scientific Officer in the Reproductive Physiology Department at the Poultry Research Centre in Edinburgh, a body of the UK Agricultural and Food Research Council. He was to be based there all his working life ultimately being appointed Acting Head of Station.
In the post-War period there was a rapid expansion in the poultry industry as a source of cheaper food and this could not be sustained through traditional farm breeding methods. Peter Lake and colleagues pioneered work on the biochemistry and physiology of the production and function of the spermatozoa of domestic birds (especially chickens and turkeys). He recognised the importance of artificial insemination not only for the exponential growth of the poultry industry but also to enhance the quality and size of the product through selective breeding. This required much experimentation in the collection, storage and transportation of the spermatozoa. In 1952 Dr Lake spent a study year at the National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill, London with Professor A.S. Parkes and Dr C. Polge who had discovered the use of glycerol for freezing spermatozoa. In 1960 Dr Lake spent a sabbatical year on a Lalor Foundation Fellowship at the University of California, Davis with Prof. F.W. Lorenz and Dr F.X. Ogasawara. This was a life shaping experience from which many friendships and partnerships developed, underlined in 1989 with his election as a Fellow of the Poultry Science Association of America.
Throughout his career Dr Lake wrote or contributed to scores of scientific articles, books and reviews including in1978 (with J.M. Stewart) a key work for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food entitled 'Artificial Insemination in Poultry'. He also travelled widely in support of colleagues around the world and to attend numerous poultry congresses usually as a speaker or lecturer. In 1980 he spent 3 months in Japan as Visiting Professor in Animal Science at Kyushu University also advising many poultry breeding centres.
Upon his retirement as Head of the Reproductive Physiology Department in 1988 Dr Lake was proud to receive the Order of the British Empire from the Queen in recognition of his lifetimes work. Previously he was also honoured with the Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1982 and the Fellowship of the Institute of Biology in 1984.
Post-retirement in 1989 he took up a Nicholas Memorial Fellowship at Cuddy Farms in Ontario, Canada advising this multi-national turkey breeder and in December 1989 he concluded his career by accepting a United Nations FAO commission to assist the poultry breeding industry in Albania.
Dr Lake married in 1954 to Mary Bennett who over 56 years was an indispensable part of his success and happiness. They had 4 sons, Michael, Martin, Christopher and Kenneth. Peter missed Mary badly after she passed away in 2010 and Michael also pre-deceased him. Peter is survived by 3 sons and 9 grandchildren.
Apart from work and family his great passion was rugby which he enjoyed as a player and referee.