The soil scientist best known to television viewers as The Prof on the former Maggie Barry gardening show, Thomas William Walker, died in Christchurch last week, aged 94.
An Emeritus Professor at Lincoln University, Professor Walker was the nation's first professor of soil science in 1952, and spent 27 years at the university before retiring in 1978.
Prof Walker died at his Christchurch home last Monday, overlooking the garden he and his wife Edna created, ``surrounded by those he loved and who loved him'', a family member said.
He was born in Shepshed, England, in 1916 and topped the country in an open examination for a Royal Scholarship in Chemistry, which took him to Royal College of Science, London, where he completed both a BSc and a doctorate in agricultural chemistry within four-and-a-half years, motivated by his desire to marry his childhood sweetheart, Edna.
He spent World War 2 working on the British Government's national food production programme, and after later lecturing at Manchester University, joined a state agricultural advisory service.
Prof Walker was recruited to New Zealand and arrived in 1952 with his wife and three daughters -- a fourth daughter was born in New Zealand -- and focussed on the nitrogen economy of legume-based pastures, such as clover.
The pattern of clover responses to nutrients led to an interest in the classification of soils, and he was noted for his talks to farmers and farmer groups.
Through television and Maggie's Garden Show The Prof became a national institution with segments filmed on the extensive vegetable garden of his Christchurch home.
He believed in science and wanted to make it easy for everyone to understand and use science, and he was good at communicating his knowledge and enthusiasm.
At a 90th birthday celebration at Lincoln University, a colleague, Dr John Adams, described Prof Walker as the greatest communicator in New Zealand science.
He was a Fellow of the NZ Institute of Chemistry, Fellow of the NZ Institute of Agricultural Science and Fellow of the NZ Society of Soil Science.
He held a British Council Prestige Fellowship in 1964 and a Fulbright Fellowship in 1968 and was made and Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
In 1997 he was awarded both Lincoln University's top medal for advancing New Zealand's interests, the Bledisloe Medal, and the top award of the national science academy, the Royal Society's Rutherford Medal.
In 2003 he was awarded the Jubilee Medal for significant contributions to agricultural science, presented by the NZ Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science.
He is survived by his wife and daughters, Jennifer, Pamela, Judy and Penny, 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, a private family funeral service has already been held.
A public memorial service will be held on November 22 at Lincoln University