I’m sorry to have to tell you that Doug Bailey died peacefully at his home on Monday (16th Jan) after a long battle with cancer. Doug was a Director of Research at INRA and was seconded as an INRA Visiting Fellow to work in the Department in the Epidemiology & Modelling Group.
Those who knew Doug well will remember him as a kind and generous colleague. He was an accomplished researcher with a remarkable ability to communicate the excitement and value of epidemiological research to experimenters, theoreticians, farmers and regulators. Others in the Department may not know much about Doug’s background and his contributions to research and I add an all too brief summary below. We shall miss him dearly.
Doug began his career in the University as a technical assistant in my group in the Dept of Applied Biology, transferring to Botany/Plant Sciences in 1989. He had previously worked at the Plant Breeding Institute and before that as a tractor driver for Pemberton Farms. Doug was an accomplished and much sought-after footballer with opportunities to play for major clubs but he decided instead to concentrate on a career in science, reading for a part-time degree at Anglia, from which he graduated with a first. This was followed by a part-time PhD with the Open University while continuing to work in the Epidemiology Group. Doug then completed several successful postdoc positions with us before being head-hunted by INRA to establish epidemiological programmes first on vine diseases in Bordeaux and then on soil-borne diseases in Rennes.
Doug was a remarkable experimenter with the rare gift of understanding how to interface experimentation with mathematical models in order to gain insight into the mechanisms of how diseases spread and to test that insight rigorously in both microcosms and in extensive field experiments. Doug produced seminal work on the roles of primary and secondary infection in the spread of disease. He pioneered research on disease-induced host growth, in which he showed how low levels of infection stimulate plants to over-compensate for infection by producing more leaves or roots that act as ‘stepping-stones’ to favour disease spread. He also carried out a series of elegant experiments on scaling from individual to population behaviour in epidemics. These experiments led to the first successful experimental test of percolation theory to predict disease invasion. Doug’s microcosm experiments in which he could study not only epidemiological mechanisms but the variability amongst replicate epidemics also led to new insights into how to improve the effectiveness of biological control of soil-borne pathogens by exploiting knowledge of the mechanisms and potential for variability. Doug’s research on primary and secondary infection in take-all of wheat was adopted by the Home Grown Cereals to explain the much–studied phenomenon of take-all decline in cereals, with related work impacting on sugar-beet diseases.
Doug’s work, matched with his enthusiasm and ever-friendly and helpful support, have endeared him to many and left a lasting legacy in laboratories here and in France and amongst many colleagues around the world.