Professor of animal husbandry at University College Dublin (UCD) Ian Gordon was a true pioneer in the area of farm animal reproduction, particularly in the area of oestrous synchronisation in sheep and cattle, superovulation and non-surgical embryo transfer and, latterly, in the area of in-vitro embryo production in cattle.

In recognition of his contributions, he received the prestigious pioneer award from both the Association of Embryo Technology in Europe (AETE), in 1995, and the International Embryo Technology Society (IETS), in 1998.

Professor Gordon, or Prof as he was affectionately known, was an excellent teacher, who captivated his students with his encyclopaedic knowledge of the literature. In addition he supervised approximately 80 fulltime postgraduate research students (masters and PhD) at UCD’s Lyons Research Farm.

Born in Scotland, Professor Gordon initially left school at the age of 14 and worked for six years before gaining matriculation from London University by private study in 1948.

This enabled him to attend Nottingham University, from where he graduated with a BSc in Agriculture (Class 1) in 1951.

Scientific career

He subsequently embarked on his prolific scientific career at Cambridge, under the guidance of Sir John Hammond, widely regarded as the father of modern animal physiology.

He earned a Diploma in Agriculture from Cambridge University in 1952 and obtained an MA in 1955 and a PhD in 1957.

It was always Professor Gordon’s philosophy that his research should have commercial application.

Much of his early work was carried out in association with farmers in various parts of England and Wales and was primarily concerned with the control and manipulation of reproduction in sheep to increase the efficiency of lamb production.

Professor Gordon joined UCD in 1963; while his studies at UCD were concerned with refining procedures for synchronisation of oestrus in sheep, he later devoted all of his energies to developing embryo transfer procedures for cattle.

During the late 1960s, he turned his attention to in-vitro maturation of oocytes and to the hormonal induction of superovulation.

One of Professor Gordon’s major breakthroughs was the establishment of a simple non-surgical procedure for transferring embryos in the cow with relatively high levels of success.

This procedure was adopted almost universally in the embryo transfer industry, as it demonstrated that normal pregnancy and high twinning rates could be established using simple transcervical procedures.

Professor Gordon was a prolific writer, publishing many scientific articles, with some 280 to his credit, but in his later years at UCD, from where he retired in 1993, and in his retirement, he published six books, including Controlled Breeding in Farm Animals and Laboratory Production of Cattle Embryos, both of which are used by students around the world today.

Ian Gordon passed away on 5 July 2021 and is survived by his children Andrew, Alison, Lisa and Duncan, their partners and his grandchildren.