in memoriam - A. J. (Tony) Smyth (1927-2008)
After taking a degree in geology at the University of Cambridge , Tony was recruited by the U.K. Colonial Research Service in 1952 to carry out soil surveys of the cocoa-growing areas of Western Nigeria.
Newly-married, he and his wife Joyce lived at several stations in the bush, where there were few modern comforts, but the work was interesting and a constant challenge. Eventually, Tony was made Director of Soil Survey at Moor Plantation, Ibadan .
‘The Soils and Land use of Western Nigeria’ by Smyth and Montgomery (1962) is a classic of its kind which Tony later expanded into an FAO bulletin on cocoa soils. Tony had a talent for making information available in a simple format, as was illustrated by his West Nigerian soil classification disc.
Though grounded as a desk officer when he joined FAO in 1962, Rome was a better place for a young family than living in the bush. He travelled widely visiting FAO projects and attending international meetings. He was always ready to support staff in the field, both with his practical and pragmatic advice and with his administrative experience. In the early seventies, he led the move from diverse, local, land suitability classifications to the globally-applicable ‘Framework for Land Evaluation’, which became one of the most widely used FAO manuals.
After 12 happy years in Rome , Tony moved to London in 1974 when he was appointed Director of the then Land Resources Development Centre which already had a well-established reputation for its Land Resource Studies. Under Tony’s direction, further expansion of staffing took place so that, by 1984, professional staff of LRDC numbered more than 60. However, more difficult and frustrating times followed as government cut back its research establishments. Tony retired in 1987, after which he served on the board of IBSRAM (the International Board for Soil Research and Management) for five years, which enabled him to sustain his interest in soil and land evaluation and to maintain contacts with international colleagues and friends.
Tony Smyth will be remembered as an excellent colleague and as a sociable person with a great sense of humour and a sardonic wit that could puncture holes in the pompous. He is survived by his wife, Joyce, and two adult children. Tony and Joyce had celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary two weeks before Tony died on 15 August.
Hugh Brammer and John Coulter