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Letters: Memories Of Gordon Hartman, Biochemistry Lecturer and ‘Tree Encyclopaedia’ At The University Of Surrey

Published on: 18 Nov, 2020
Updated on: 18 Nov, 2020

Gordon Hartman in 1989.

The article University of Surrey’s impressive collection of 2800 trees, raised many fond memories of the late Gordon Hartman, a lecturer in biochemistry at the university.

Professor Costas Ioannides, who retired in 2015 recalled Gordon “whose enthusiasm and love for trees is undoubtedly largely responsible for the many mature trees that embellish the campus, that we can now all enjoy.” 

Simon Smith and Julie Howarth have written to add to those memories:

From Simon Smith (University of Surrey horticultural and landscape manager).

“Firstly just to apologise for not mentioning Gordon Hartman in the interview with The Guildford Dragon NEWS. There was so much information that I wanted to pass over, including referring to previous heads of horticulture, Terry Bennett, who sadly passed away in July 2020 and Nigel Hodge, who has had a challenging time himself, since his retirement.

“Gordon was instrumental in the early days in planting so many wonderful trees on the campus. He was a “tree encyclopaedia” with an incredible knowledge of trees, as he organised many of the unusual plantings, either from staff, or students alike, just as the university set up home in Guildford.

Field maple at the university’s Senate House, now standing at about 20m tall. It is noted in the 2002 Trees of Surrey leaflet as being planted in memory of Sir George Grenfell-Baines.

“Gordon started to work for the university when it was still the Battersea Polytechnic College in London. He helped run a tree club in the early days. I can remember Terry Bennett telling me on numerous occasions he had discovered new plantings around the Stag Hill campus on a Monday morning, following Gordon’s weekend visits.

“Between Gordon, Nigel Hodge and myself, we managed to assemble the early tree database for the campus, which holds important information to this day. Gordon’s favourite tree, the golden leafed common oak, which was his memorial tree, has sadly died, so we are just in the process of sourcing a replacement tree for him.

Trees of Surrey – A guide to notable trees at the University of Surrey campus in Guildford produced by Gordon Hartman in 2002.

“I still have a copy of the Trees at Surrey guide which was produced by Gordon in 2002. However, it is nearly 20 years old and does need updating as quite a few of the notable trees have now gone.

Following advice from other horticultural officers in other universities, I have enquired to whether we can update it, adding new trees and further information about Gordon, Terry, and Nigel. This would then be a downloadable brochure, so I will keep The Dragon posted.”

From Julie Howarth

“The photo above is one of Gordon cleaning the department cheese plant – taken in 1989. He would often be spotted on campus checking on the trees. A dear colleague.

“Our good friend, Suzi in Australia, was a PhD student supervised by Gordon in the 1980s. She replied to me when I sent her a link to your article saying: “So many happy memories of Gordon Hartman. Quite one of the most lovely human beings ever!

“A focus of research at that time was Cytochrome P450, a key drug metabolising enzyme. While most were studying it in liver, Gordon and Suzi chose the avocado!

“It’s a lovely idea for The Guildford Dragon NEWS to celebrate those who contributed so much and influenced people at the university, especially in these troubled times. It combines everything: promoting the importance of scientific research, leaving a legacy to inspire others, local history and bringing us oldies together to remember good people and times.

“Keep up the good work.”

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