Peter May

Name: C Daniel, B Coombe, B Rankine & P May

Industry colleagues express gratitude and respect for Dr Peter May (1922-2007)

Peter May played a prominent role with CSIRO in assisting the sourcing of material for the CSIRO grapevine collection. His most significant contribution to the industry was through his research into the mechanisation of grape production. He was instrumental in the introduction of mechanical harvesting
now widely used in Australia.

May was highly respected and admired in the wine and grape industry. His enthusiasm, energy and practical skill as a researcher have greatly contributed to the viticulture practices that became widely used within the Australian industry.

Born in Budapest, May spent his early life in Vienna and Switzerland. In 1950, he completed a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and migrated to Australia the same year.

In 1952, May was appointed as a technical assistant at the CSIRO Commonwealth Research Station in Merbein. In 1963 he was awarded a CSIRO Postgraduate Scholarship and completed a doctorate in Switzerland. When May returned to Australia, he became the assistant chief at the CSIRO Division of Horticultural Research laboratory in Adelaide, often acting as chief for long periods.

Upon retiring from CSIRO, he spent three years as a visiting Professor of Viticulture at the University of Burgundy, and two years as visiting Professor in the Graduate School of Agriculture Brawijaya University Malang (East Java) Indonesia.

In recognition of May's contributions to vine science and viticulture, he was awarded the Urrbrae Medal in 1977 and a medal of the University of Bourgogne in 1985. May was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1996, and a Life Member of ASVO in 1997. In addition, and as a tribute to May's life in science, a symposium of reproductive biology in grapevines was held in 1999.

May was the founding editor of the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology's Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research, and contributed to several revolutionary texts and monographs on grapevine rootstocks and flowering and fruitset in grapevines.
Even in the last few years of May's life, his interest and passion in wine industry research and education continued. Working alongside industry leaders Bryce Rankine and Bryan Coombe, with assistance from Australian Wine Research Institute librarian Catherine Daniel, the group generously donated private collections of images, and their time, to collate hundreds of slides and prints relating to the wine and grape industries for a public collection to be held in the John Fornachon Memorial Library in Adelaide.

May's ongoing enthusiasm for the industry was demonstrated earlier this year when he travelled to Mexico to consult on problems with grapevine flowering.

'I have a profound gratitude to Peter,' Bryan Coombe said.

'Peter had the amazing ability to expose the errors in the research being undertaken at the time, and was able to steer the researchers in the right direction.'

Peter's tremendous grasp of the English language as well as being fluent in German and French made him able to converse with researchers around the world and to absorb their thoughts and ideas to influence the Australian viticulture industry.

'I have the upmost respect for the great energy and focus Peter gave to the industry, and to me personally. He will be greatly missed,' Coombe said.

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