Blackman came from a family which has included several distinguished scientists; his father, Vernon Herbert Blackman, FRS, and his uncle, Frederick Frost Blackman, FRS, were both botanists, and his aunt, Dame Harriette Chick, was a well-known nutritionist. Blackman always felt pride in continuing this tradition, and often refers to the work of his father; a little material relating to the Blackman family can be found in Section A (see especially A.8 - A.14). Blackman's accounts of his own career and involvement in the study of factors stimulating and inhibiting plant growth can be found at A.3.
After graduating from Cambridge, Blackman worked briefly at Rothamsted Experimental Station and then from 1927 to 1933 as Head of Botany Section at the I.C.I. Research Station at Jealott's Hill, Bracknell, where Sir Frederick Keeble was Director; Blackman's main research was on grasses and on the use of sulphuric acid in weed control. In 1933 he moved to Imperial College, London, as Lecturer in Ecology in the Department of Botany, and remained there (under secondment to the Agricultural Research Council 1942 - 45) until 1945, when he moved to Oxford as Sibthorpian Professor of Rural Economy. Here he continued research on weed control, but also directed research teams on growth analysis.
During the Second World War, Blackman played an active part in initiating the Biology War Committee, of which he was Secretary throughout its existence (see D.1 - D.67 and the accompanying introductory note). The Committee advised on research projects and co-ordinated the results in reports on various aspects of improved sources and production of food, weed control, etc. One of these, on the distribution of the spindle tree, produced a wide public response, and the resulting correspondence and data provide a virtually nation-wide picture of the distribution of the species - arranged by the old counties of Britain (see D.44 - D.59).
Blackman's own primary research interest was in weed control, selective toxicity and herbicide techniques, and his international reputation in these areas led to his being invited in 1971 to serve on the National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Effects of Herbicides in Vietnam. This difficult and controversial assignment is well documented in D.99 - D.194 and is also referred to in the correspondence in A.17, A.18.
SUMMARY OF CAREER
b.1903 (Son of Vernon Herbert Blackman, FRS)
educ. King's College School, Wimbledon
1923 - 26 St. John's College, Cambridge (Natural Science Tripos) Half-blue for rifle shooting 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926
1926 - 27 Department of Physics, Rothamsted Experimental Station
1927 - 35 Head of Botany Section, I.C.I. Research Station, Jealott's Hill, Bracknell, Berks.
1931 married Audrey Babette Seligman
1935 - 45 Lecturer in Ecology, Department of Botany, Imperial College of Science and Technology, London
1935 - 40 Assistant Scientific Editor, Gardeners' Chronicle
1942 - 46 Secretary, Biology War Committee
1945 - 70 Sibthorpian Professor of Rural Economy, Oxford University
1950 - 70 Director, Agricultural Research Council Unit of Experimental Agronomy, Oxford University
1959 Fellow of the Royal Society (Vice-President 1967 - 68)
1963 - 64 President, Institute of Biology
1971 - 74 Member, National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Effects of Herbicides in Vietnam