Great Norfolk lives - science and nature

PUBLISHED: 11:24 13 October 2020 | UPDATED: 16:06 13 October 2020

Wing Commander Ken Wallis in one of his autogyros. Photo: Bill Smith

Wing Commander Ken Wallis in one of his autogyros. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2010

EDP 150. Our birthday honours list of 150 people who have had a positive influence on Norfolk life continues with 25 stars of science, medicine and the natural world

Diana Bell (left) looking for rabbits at UEA .
Photo: Andy DarnellDiana Bell (left) looking for rabbits at UEA . Photo: Andy Darnell

Ella Barnes. Worldwide research into antibiotic resistance and food poisoning can be traced back to the discoveries of this Norwich scientist, awarded an OBE in 1978. She showed that using antibiotics in poultry feed led to the emergence of resistance in bacteria, revealing medically important antibiotics should only be used to treat disease. Her work also helped prevent salmonella in poultry. Norwich is still a global centre of research into antibiotics, and food safety.

Ted Ellis at the Wheatfen Nature Reserve  Picture: Archant LibraryTed Ellis at the Wheatfen Nature Reserve Picture: Archant Library

Jake Fiennes  

Picture: James BassJake Fiennes Picture: James Bass

Diana Bell. The conservation biologist at the University of East Anglia is an internationally renowned expert on rabbits and uses decades of studying wild rabbits on the university campus to inform research in areas including biodiversity loss and species-jumping diseases.

Bob Flowerdew   

Picture: James BassBob Flowerdew Picture: James Bass

TV presenter and veterinary surgeon Jess French. Picture: Victoria PertusaTV presenter and veterinary surgeon Jess French. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Frederick Burton-Fanning. The Norwich doctor founded England’s first purpose-built tuberculosis sanatorium at Gimingham, near Mundesley, in 1899. He chose the coastal site for its dry climate, fresh air and sunshine. Patients spent time in wooden huts on wheels which could be turned out of the wind. He also created Mundesley’s golf course to help patients take gentle exercise.

Ben Garrod  Picture: MARK BULLIMOREBen Garrod Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Deb Jordan at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve. Picture: Ian BurtDeb Jordan at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve. Picture: Ian Burt

Ted Ellis. The naturalist was keeper of natural history at Norwich Castle Museum for almost 30 years. He lived at Wheatfen Broad, Surlingham, near Norwich, which is now a nature reserve. Patron David Bellamy said: “Wheatfen Broad is, in its way, as important as Mount Everest or the giant redwood forests of North America. It is probably the best bit of fenland we have because we know so much about it. That is purely because one man gave his life trying to understand it.”


Prof Hubert Lamb, director of the UEA climatic research unit, in 1972Prof Hubert Lamb, director of the UEA climatic research unit, in 1972

Jake Fiennes. Conservation manager on the Holkham estate, looking after and developing wildlife habitat on the nature reserve and as part of the estate’s agricultural work.

Founding director of the Environmental Investigation Agency Jennifer Lonsdale   PHOTO: Matthew UsherFounding director of the Environmental Investigation Agency Jennifer Lonsdale PHOTO: Matthew Usher

Ken Sims who founded Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens is one of just 25 honorary fellows of the London Zoological Society.  

Picture: James BassKen Sims who founded Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens is one of just 25 honorary fellows of the London Zoological Society. Picture: James Bass

Jess French. The vet and television presenter, who lives near Winterton, is known for her wildlife programmes and nature and conservation books for children.

Bob Flowerdew. The organic gardener, who lives near Dickleburgh, is one of the country’s leading gardeners, an author and television presenter and a regular panellist on Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time.

Margaret Fountaine. The butterfly breeder, collector and illustrator travelled the world and published many papers on her work. Her collection of 22,000 butterflies was given to Norwich Castle Museum when she died in 1940.

Ben Garrod. The biologist, television presenter and bones and apes expert grew up in Great Yarmouth and is a professor of evolutionary biology and science engagement at the University of East Anglia.

Deb Jordan. Deb and Bill Jordan run nature reserve and visitor attraction Pensthorpe Natural Park which was home to the BBC’s Springwatch for several years.

Kenneth McKee. The surgeon at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital pioneered hip replacement surgery in the 1950s.

Hubert Lamb. Founder of the University of East Anglia’s climate research institute. His research began to reveal the world is warming rapidly and he is credited with doing more than any scientist of his generation to make the academic community aware of climate change.

Cecil Laws. The Great Yarmouth wartime radar engineer also invented air ionisers used to clean air in homes and hospitals.

Sydney Long. He bought Cley Marshes in 1926 and went to found the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, inspiring the creation of nature reserves and wildlife trusts across Britain.

Jennifer Lonsdale. Environmental activist and founder and director of the International Environmental Investigation Agency. Jennifer, of Great Ryburgh, was a Greenpeace volunteer and still campaigns to protect our oceans from pollution.

Paul Nurse. The Nobel-winning geneticist and chief executive and director of the Francis Crick Institute was born in Norwich. He won the Nobel prize for medicine in 2001 for discovering the protein molecules which control cell division.

Justin O’Grady. Experts from the Norwich Research Park are among those at the forefront of the global fight against coronavirus. They include epidemiologists, medical researchers and genome experts. Justin O’Grady’s team has developed diagnostic tests and sequenced coronavirus genomes.

Anne Osbourn. The professor of biology and director of the Norwich Research Park biotechnology alliance has been involved in discoveries to help agriculture and medicine and is also a writer and founder of an initiatve linking science, art and writing. She and her scientist sister were both made OBEs last year.

James Paget. 1814-1899. One of the most gifted doctors, surgeons and scientists of all time, the Great Yarmouth man identified and found treatments for conditions ranging from breast cancer and deep vein thombosis to carpal tunnel syndrome and bone disease. He founded the scientific study of the causes and effects of diseases, pioneered the use of the microscope to study tumours and was surgeon to Queen Victoria for 41 years.

Elaine Sassoon. Plastic surgeon specialising in breast reconstruction after cancer.

Ken Sims. Founder of Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens and one of only 25 honorary fellows of the Zoological Society (alongside David Attenborough and Desmond Morris.)

Chris Skinnner. The farmer, conservationist and Radio Norfolk broadcaster has set aside half of High Ash Farm, near Norwich, for wildlife crops and opened footpaths through his land.

Richard Synge. The professor of biology at the University of East Anglia won the Nobel prize for chemistry in 1952 for his part in the invention of a technique to separate mixtures of similar chemicals.

Mark Thompson. The Norfolk astronomer, author, podcaster, and televison presenter hopes to break the record for the world’s longest lecture during the 2021 Norwich Science Festival, in aid of Barnados.

Ken Wallis. 1916-2013. The inventor, engineer and RAF pilot, of Reymerston, near Dereham, helped develop the autogyro and earned 34 world records, including being, at 89, the oldest pilot to set a world flight. He was also a James Bond stunt pilot.

Our 150 names of iconic Norfolk people of the past 150 years runs through this EDP 150th anniversary week with categories including sports, arts, science and nature, good causes, business leaders and great lives.

Read more: 25 great Norfolk lives

Who have we missed? Let us know who you think should be included in a list of Norfolk people who should be celebrated for making life in the county better over the past 150 years. Email

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