Historic: Trevor Palmer Jones

Trevor Palmer-Jones started research initially into mastitis, but then in 1944 was made the chief NZ beekeeping scientist. He worked through until 1975 - and was made a life member of the NBA.
In the middle 1980s I had dinner with Trevor and his wife Claire.

I asked Trevor what was the most amazing advance in beekeeping research that had come about during his time as a researcher.

He didn't hesitate. "The photocopier!" In all of those early years, a magazine might come by on circulation. If there was anything you wanted to read more closely, or save to be able to use in your own research, you had to write to the author, asking for a reprint. Authors were generally given a large number of these reprints - just copies of their articles - so were happy to distribute them this way. And then hope that the author would do that, and then wait all the time it would take for the mail to get back to here.

Palmer-Jones said the introduction of the photocopier saved him *heaps* of time that he could then use more effectively actually doing the bee research.

That wasn't the answer I was expecting...
OK, then, here's a longer, but hopefully more interesting story about T P-J.
In the early 1980s I spent a wonderful evening with Trevor Palmer-Jones and his lovely wife. They were both interesting, exciting people, with excellent memories and having led varied lives, incredibly interesting to talk with.
His wife spent quite a bit of time teasing Palmer-Jones re: his tutu research work. She, it seems, was vegetarian and of Eastern religious leanings, and felt that he had 'destroyed his karma forever because of the number of guinea pigs he had killed during the course of his work'.
One of the contentious aspects of Palmer-Jones' work was his direct injection of the guinea pigs with quite large amounts of suspect honey/honeydew. Enough to the point that some people still contend he was killing them with sugar/diabetes, etc, rather than the possible poisonous substance.
Palmer-Jones launched into a story about how, because of funding restrictions, he didn't have an unlimited supply of guinea pigs, so he worked out how to revive them after giving them poisonous doses of tutin. (He pointed out that, scientifically, obviously, he couldn't 'reuse' them, but still did it for the curiousity of it all). Once he figured out that several of the barbiturates would act to counter the tutin, he published in some veterinarian's journal.
Shortly after it came out, somewhere near Galatea/Murupara, an elephant was stricken with tutu poisoning. Yes, an elephant, not exactly one of our native species. Not for the first time, either. It seems that travelling circuses, hauling wagons with the animals in them, would travel down the roads. Elephants, with a long reach of their trunks, could reach out to grasp at foliage on the road side, including the (poisonous) tutu leaves.
So when this elephant showed signs of tutu poisoning, the vet (who had just by chance read Palmer-Jones' article) managed to get a whole bucket full of barbiturates down the elephant's throat and saved its life!
Palmer-Jones' analysis was that, based on body weight of one elephant saved versus many, many guinea pigs killed, his karma was still in the positive even now. Didn't really convince his wife, though.

Originally posted
 

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