Dr. Robb Shelton Gowe

Robb Gowe Ph.D. was a scientist and research administrator who demanded and produced programs and policies which had practical application on Canadian farms.

Robb’s most important achievement was his leadership in administering the national Animal Research Centre in Ottawa from 1963 until 1986. He brought the 2800-acre Greenbelt farm up to date, a model of production and scientific efficiency with projects in genetics, nutrition, biochemistry, physiology, farm management, manure disposal, and animal behaviour.

His own research work focused on poultry, insisting that control strains be included in all trials, and that multiple trait selection be used to ensure overall progress in genetic merit. He developed a breeding strategy for poultry, later also applied to swine, involving pure strain selection and improvement, with crossing between strains to capture the advantages of heterosis. That approach is being used on a trial basis also in dairy cattle in Canada at the time of his induction into the Hall of Fame.

Prior to his time at the Animal Research Centre, scientists tended to work separately on their own projects within their own areas of expertise. Gowe insisted that challenges be tackled by teams of scientists, from different fields, in order to capture the benefit of cross-disciplinary learning. In sheep breeding, he combined geneticists, nutritionists, reproductive physiologists and agricultural engineers aiming at new and more efficient sheep breeds, especially for out-of-season breeding. He also developed computerized record-keeping for such trials, and his systems were made available to the Canadian poultry industry. Robb was not always popular with other scientists because of his strong opinions, but his demanding approach usually forced them to do better work than they might otherwise have done.

Dr. Gowe’s main achievement in the management area was his leadership in developing a Filtered Air Positive Pressure building for poultry which protected the animals from dust-borne viral agents. This type of building is very useful not only for genetic and disease research, but also for pharmaceutical research in both poultry and swine.

Not limited to animal research, Dr. Gowe led research on canola oil to achieve recognition by the USFDA of Canadian canola as GRAS (Generally Recommended As Safe).

Dr. Gowe served on the board of directors of the Queensway-Carleton Hospital for 12 years, one year of which as chairman. He has received numerous awards and recognitions from animal and poultry science organizations in Canada and around the world.

Nominated By:
  • Canadian Farm Animal Genetic Resources Foundation