Hatton, Sir Ronald George
Hatton, Sir Ronald George (1886–1965), horticulturist, was born in Hampstead, London, on 6 July 1886, the youngest child of Ernest Hatton, barrister, and his wife, Amy, daughter of William Pearson KC, the brother of Karl Pearson, the biometrician. Hatton was educated at Brighton College and Exeter School and was an exhibitioner at Balliol College, Oxford, from 1906 to 1910. He obtained a fourth class in modern history in 1910, graduating BA in 1912 and MA in 1913. He worked as a labourer on a farm near Bristol and wrote Folk of the Furrow, published in 1913 under the pen-name of Christopher Holdenby. In 1912 he went to study agriculture at Wye College in Kent. In 1914 Hatton married Hannah Rachel, daughter of Henry Rigden, of Ashford, Kent; they had one son. The Wye College Fruit Experimental Station became the East Malling Research Station in 1914 with Hatton as acting director after its first director had left on military duties.
Hatton was appointed director of East Malling in 1918, and spent the next thirty years of his life developing it into the leading fruit research institute in the world, enlarging its area from 22 to 360 acres and its staff to more than eighty. His enthusiasm and financial acumen enabled him to raise funds for this expansion from fruit growers, the Empire Marketing Board, and the Treasury. His best-known contribution to research was the study of the effect of rootstock on scion growth and fruiting of apples, pears, and plums. In the course of this work he classified and standardized fruit tree rootstocks, including those which were ultimately known as the Malling series which became widely used. His influence and that of his co-workers transformed horticulture, and fruit growing especially, from folklore to science. He emphasized field experimentation, keen observation, and work on control measures against pests and diseases.
Hatton initiated productive collaborations with the John Innes Horticultural Institute, which resulted in the production of the Malling–Merton apple rootstocks, one of which proved the most successful stock for Cox's orange pippin, and with the Institute of Plant Physiology of the Imperial College of Science, London, which laid the basis of fruit tree physiology.
Many graduate students came to East Malling to study for higher degrees after 1932 when the University of London recognized the station as suitable for this purpose. Hatton's influence thus reached the many countries from which these students came, and he visited and advised on fruit growing in Australia, Canada, Ceylon, Java, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States of America.
Hatton published many papers on fruit culture. He was instrumental in starting, in 1919, the Journal of Pomology (after 1948 the Journal of Horticultural Science) and was its joint editor from 1924 until 1947. He was the first director of the Imperial (later Commonwealth) Bureau of Horticulture and Plantation Crops when it was established at East Malling in 1929. Its journal, Horticultural Abstracts, begun in 1931, became the standard source for information on fruit and other tree crops. Hatton also played a leading role in the Royal Horticultural Society, which awarded him its Victoria medal in 1930 and elected him vice-president in 1952. He was appointed CBE in 1934, knighted in 1949, and elected to fellowship of the Royal Society in 1944.
After his retirement in 1949 Hatton continued as an enthusiastic grower of fruit and flowers. He died at his home, Sleightholme, Benenden, Kent, on 11 November 1965 and, by his request, was buried in the East Malling churchyard adjoining the land of the research station.
- W. Stoneman, photograph, 1945, NPG
- R. Lewis, portrait, East Malling Research Station, Kent
Wealth at Death
£28,183: probate, 1 March 1966, CGPLA Eng. & Wales