The Biffen Lecture

The Biffen Lecture

Rowland Biffen was Director of the Plant Breeding Institute in Cambridge from its foundation in 1912, until his retirement in 1936.

Biffen's research interests were founded in cereal rust, in which he made outstanding advances in genetics and wheat breeding. 

Following privatization, the non-privatised section of the Plant Breeding Institute became a part of the John Innes in 1990 with staff moving into a newly constructed building, named the Biffen Building.


Biffen Lecture Speakers

2016 Edward Buckler, US Department of Agriculture – ‘Breeding 4.0? Sorting through the adaptive and deleterious variants in maize and beyond’

2015 Professor Lord May, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford - 'Unanswered questions in ecology, and why they matter' 

2014 Professor Pamela Ronald, Department of Plant Pathology & The Genome Center, University of California Davis - 'Engineering crops for resistance to disease and tolerance of stress'

2012 Sarah Hake, Plant Gene Expression Center, USDA-ARS - 'Patterning the maize leaf'

2010 Peter Langridge, University of Adelaide, Australia - 'Miserable but worth the trouble: Genomics, wheat and difficult environments'

2009 Susan McCouch, Dept Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University - 'Gene flow and genetic isolation during crop evolution'

2008 Rob Martienssen - 'Propagating silent heterochromatin with RNA interference in plants and fission yeast'

2006 Dick Flavell

2004 Michael Freeling

2003 Steve Tanksley

2002 Francesco Salamini

2001 John Doebley

Speakers at the Biffen Lecture are presented with a print of a work of art by the late Leonie Woolhouse, a local artist and wife of the former Director Harold Woolhouse.

The piece illustrates the life and career of Sir Rowland Biffen FRS. 

The Biffen print - 'Working with the Grain' by Leonie Woolhouse


During their visit to the John Innes Centre, speakers of the named lectures are given the opportunity to have their portrait done by Professor Enrico Coen FRS. The portraits are a memento of their lecture and visit.

Below you can see all portraits of the speakers of the Biffen Lecture, and you can click on them to see them in more detail.



Edward Buckler

View website

Lord may 2015



Lord Robert May

View website




Sarah Hake

View website




Susan McCouch

View website




Rob Martienssen

View website




Dick Flavell

View website




Michael Freeling

View website




Steve Tanksley

View website




Francesco Salamini




John Doebley

View website

View all portraits

JIC Cookie Policy. We use cookies on this site to enhance your user experience. By clicking any link on this page you are giving your consent for us to set cookies. You can find out more about the cookies by clicking here.

Accept cookies