Dr M. Elisabeth Sharpe, who died last year, was Editor of the Journal of Dairy
Research from 1975 to 1989. During this period she devoted her considerable energies
and talent to putting the Journal on a sound financial footing and expanding its
contributions from authors in the developing world. Becky, as she was known to her
friends and colleagues, was highly successful in both these goals and the Journal
continues to build upon her success to this day.
Her editorship was the culmination of a notable scientific career, full of
achievement and friendships. Born in 1916 in Barnsley, Yorkshire, Becky Sharpe
completed her BSc degree at University College London in 1937 and went on to a
year of postgraduate study in microbiology at the University of Manchester. She
then joined the staff of the National Institute for Research in Dairying, Shinfield, an
Agricultural Research Council Institute and a part of the University of Reading. She
left in 1942 for a 4 year stint with The Boots Company in Nottingham and returned
to Shinfield for a 30 year period of exemplary research in dairy microbiology in the
Department of Bacteriology.
The Department had a tremendous group of researchers and was a really exciting
place for many of us to start our careers working with people like Becky Sharpe,
Bruno Reiter, Frank Neave and Christina Cousins. Becky interacted with many of
us over her career, and her research resulted in hundreds of publications and
contributions to the scientific literature on the microbiology and microflora of milk
and dairy products. She is probably best remembered for her work on staphylococci,
micrococci and the lactobacilli. Often she pioneered the development of new
techniques for the growth, isolation and identification of these Gram-positive
organisms. She was especially pleased with her work as a contributor and editor for
Bergey's Manual of Systematic Bacteriology, which continued after retirement. She
received her PhD from the University of Reading in 1951 and a DSc degree from the
University of London in 1973.
On a more personal note, the author remembers Becky as a generous and
stimulating scientific colleague. She was always willing to listen to the ideas of a
young and inexperienced scientist and offer help and advice. She was highly
respected and well known in the world of dairy microbiology, and many outstanding
microbiologists either worked with her or trained under her. Her laboratory was a
favoured stop for researchers from across the globe.
After retiring from active research in 1976 she remained very active in scientific
circles. Her Editorship of the Journal was a major commitment, but she was also an
active participant in scientific society activities, particularly as a fellow of the
Institute of Biology. Her numerous scientific contributions, and the health and
international flavour of the Journal speak to her professional accomplishments. Her
friendship and help will be fondly remembered and missed by all of those fortunate
enough to have worked with her.