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Eva Crane; Authority on the history of beekeeping and honey-hunting who travelled the world in pursuit of bees

Von: amelia.rosner@gmail.com [Profil]
Datum: 14.09.2007 05:04
Message-ID: <1189739063.066344.53290@19g2000hsx.googlegroups.com>
Newsgroup: alt.obituaries
Eva Crane
Authority on the history of beekeeping and honey-hunting who travelled
the world in pursuit of bees
Published: 14 September 2007
The Independent

The name of Eva Crane is synonymous the world over with bees and
beekeeping. She was at once author, editor, archivist, research
scientist and historian, and possibly the most travelled person in
pursuit of bees that has ever lived. She was a noted authority on the
history of beekeeping and honey-hunting, including archaeology and
rock art in her studies. She founded one of the leading institutions
of the beekeeping world, the International Bee Research Association
(IBRA), and ran it herself until her 72nd year. And yet her academic
background was not in apiculture or biology, but in nuclear physics.

She possessed "an intellect that took no prisoners", said Richard
Jones, her successor as director of the IBRA. Always precise, her
maxim was "observe, check the facts, and always get your research
right". Yet she was a modest person with a piercing curiosity. She
insisted that she wasn't at all interesting; that it was the places
she went to, and the people she met, that were. For that reason,
though a clear, intelligent and most prolific writer, she never wrote
a memoir. The nearest she came was a book of travel writings, Making a
Bee-line (2003), written near the end of her long life.

Crane has been compared with Dame Freya Stark in her willingness to
travel to remote places, often alone and at an advanced age. Her aim
was to share her beekeeping knowledge with farmers, voluntary bodies
and governments, but, typically, she claimed to have learned far more
than she taught.

Between 1949 and 2000 she visited at least 60 countries by means as
varied as dog-sled, dugout canoe and light aircraft. In a remote
corner of Pakistan, she discovered that beekeeping was still practiced
using the horizontal hives she had seen only in excavations of Ancient
Greece. Another place that intrigued her was the Zagros mountains on
the borders of Turkey, Iraq and Iran, where rich local traditions and
an unusual variety of hives suggest that it was here that the age-old
association of man and bees first began.

She was born Eva Widdowson in 1912, the younger daughter of Thomas and
Rose Widdowson. Her elder sister was Elsie Widdowson, who became a
world-famous nutritionist. Eva was educated at Sydenham Secondary
School in Kent, and won a scholarship to read mathematics at King's
College London. A brilliant student, and one of only two women then
reading mathematics at London University, she completed her degree in
two years. An MSc in quantum mechanics soon followed, and she received
her PhD in nuclear physics in 1938.

An academic career at the cutting edge of quantum science seemed to
beckon. Eva Widdowson took up the post of Lecturer in Physics at
Sheffield University in 1941. The next year she married James Crane, a
stockbroker then serving in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve.

Among their wedding presents was a working beehive. The idea had been
for the couple to use the honey to eke out their wartime sugar ration,
but Eva quickly became fascinated with bees and their ways. It led to
a radically different and unexpected turning in her life, from the
arcane study of particles and energy to the lively, buzzing world of
the hive.

She took out a subscription to Bee World and became an active member
of the local beekeepers' association. Later she became secretary of
the research committee of the British Beekeepers' Association (BBKA).
However, convinced of the vast potential of beekeeping in the tropics,
her outlook was international. In 1949 she founded the Bee Research
Association, dedicated to "working to increase awareness of the vital
role of bees in the environment". The charity was renamed the
International Bee Research Association (IBRA) in 1976.

The rest of Eva Crane's life was devoted to building the IBRA into a
world centre of expertise on beekeeping. Based in her front room at
Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire until 1966, the association
eventually found an office in the village and since 1985 has been
based in Cardiff.

Her work as an editor and archivist was prodigious. From its outset in
1962 until 1982 Crane edited the association's Journal of Apicultural
Research. She also edited Bee World from 1949 until her retirement in
1984 (the two journals were united in 2006). Another major activity
was compiling and publishing regular research abstracts, Apicultural
Abstracts, which she also edited from 1950 to 1984. It is now one of
the world's major databases on bee science.

She assiduously collected and filed scientific papers, which
eventually resulted in an archive of 60,000 works on apiculture. It
includes a unique collection of 130 bee journals from around the
world, including perhaps the only complete runs of some of them. The
archive is now so large (and in need of professional management) that
it is housed at the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth.

In support of the IBRA and its work, Crane also established the Eva
Crane Trust. Its aim is to advance the science of apiology, and in
particular the publication of books on the subject, and the promotion
of apicultural libraries and museums of historical beekeeping
artefacts throughout the world.

Eva Crane was a prolific writer, with over 180 papers, articles and
books to her name. Her broad-ranging and extremely learned books were
mostly written in her seventies and eighties after her retirement in
1984 from the day-to-day running of the Association. A Book of Honey
(1980) and The Archaeology of Beekeeping (1983) reflected her strong
interests in nutrition and the ancient past of beekeeping. Her writing
culminated in two mighty, encyclopaedic tomes, Bees and Beekeeping:
science, practice and world resources (1990; at 614 pages) and The
World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting (1999; 682 pages). These
distilled a lifetime's knowledge and experience and are regarded as
seminal textbooks throughout the beekeeping world.

Peter Marren

Ethel Eva Widdowson, beekeeper, physicist and writer: born London 12
June 1912; Lecturer in Physics, Sheffield University 1941-43;
Director, Bee Research Association (later the International Bee
Research Association) 1949-84; OBE 1986; married 1942 James Crane
(died 1978); died Slough, Berkshire 6 September 2007.

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