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Adams, Norman (Norm) (?–2007)

Dr Norman Adams FTSE, who died in Perth recently and a Fellow of the Academy since 1998, will be remembered by his colleagues, students and the sheep industry as a wise and gentle scientific leader who made an outstanding contribution in his field.

Dr Adams graduated from Sydney University with a Veterinary Degree in 1965. After a short period as a country vet in NSW he went to Ames, Iowa to undertake a PhD in the area of microbial infection in turkeys. In 1971 he joined CSIRO for a few months in Melbourne, before taking up a post at the CSIRO laboratories in Perth where he spent the rest of his life working in the sheep industry.

His early work focused on clover disease, a major problem that resulted in very low lambing percentages. His pioneering work on its histopathology remains the definitive work in this area, with the applied diagnostic tests he developed remaining the standard today. His world class work on phyto-oestrogens has remained relevant and he was invited to write reviews on clover disease 20 years after he completed the research work.

From the mid 1980s to mid 1990s his research shifted to the role of metabolic and reproductive hormones as mediators of interactions between nutrition, reproduction and wool growth. He led projects to increase wool strength within the CRC for Premium Quality Wool, resulting in the development and adoption of genetic, nutritional and management tools for overcoming the problem.

The impact of his research is illustrated by his being co-author of a paper, published in 1993, that has been one of the top 100 most highly cited CSIRO papers in the past decade. From 1998 until 2001, he served as Deputy Director of the Wool CRC. During this period he conducted the widely recognised evaluation of whole sheep performance whose growth hormone production had been modified.

From 2001 he studied the trade-off between production and fitness of the Merino sheep, proposing that extremes in selection for wool may have compromised the reproductive performance of Merino sheep.

He had a passion for understanding the whole animal – its nutrition, endocrinology and physiology, and through this made outstanding contributions to improvements in the productivity and welfare of sheep.

Original publication

  • ATSE Focus, June 2007

Citation details

'Adams, Norman (Norm) (?–2007)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 5 August 2020.

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