John D. Summers was born in 1928 at St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. He studied at the Ontario Agricultural College (later to become part of the University of Guelph), where he received his Bachelor's and Master's degrees. It was here that his lifelong interest in poultry began. After working for three years for a commercial feed company, John Summers returned to Guelph as a Lecturer in the Department of Poultry Science.
He went to Rutgers University, New Jersey in 1959 as a Research Assistant and received a PhD degree in Animal Nutrition in 1962. He returned to Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) the same year and remained there for the rest of his career, retiring in 1987. During this time the University of Guelph was created, and the department of Poultry Science remained part of the OAC within the new structure. In 1969, Dr Summers was appointed Chair of the Department and remained in this position until the Department was merged into the Department of Animal and Poultry Science in 1971.
Following his retirement, John Summers was appointed Professor Emeritus of the University of Guelph. He also became Technical adviser to the Poultry Industry Centre and the Ontario Poultry Council.
John Summers' research interests and accomplishments have been extremely varied. He has worked with both laying stock and meat birds. His work with the older varieties of rape seed led him to study some of the toxicity problems associated with this feedstuff, and eventually to investigations of the thyroid metabolism through which they were mediated. This work eventually led to the acceptance of Canola meals as ingredients for poultry feeds. In the broiler area, John Summers had an abiding interest in carcass quality and composition, and was among the first to investigate the growing problem of obesity and abdominal fat in the rapidly growing birds produced in the 1970s and 1980s. His most recent interest has focused on the potential for reducing phosphorus and nitrogen in poultry waste by manipulation of the birds' diet.
While his research has been conducted largely in Canada, John Summers has carried his results to all parts of the world, both at international conferences and through visits made on behalf of commercial interests. He has appeared on the programme of many World's Poultry Congresses and other international gatherings on all continents. He enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial relationship with Shaver Poultry Breeding Farms Ltd which is located close to his home in Guelph, Ontario. Besides advising Shaver on nutrition and management, John Summers traveled widely on Shaver's behalf during the period of rapid expansion in the 1960s through the 1980s. He was able to assist many poultry farmers and hatcheries around the world in making best use of the breeding stock they received, and has established many lifelong friendships with this clientele.
John Summers has a remarkable talent for bringing the relevant and practical aspects of his research work into the realm of the poultry farming operation. His early work in the feed industry may have been responsible for this ability, and he is still widely respected as a source of advice and information.
Dr Summers is a fellow of the Agricultural Institute of Canada and of the Poultry Science Association. He has received awards from the American Feed Manufacturers' Association, the Canadian Feed Industries Association, and the Ontario Poultry Council.