Sir Alister Hardy (1896-1985) Inventor of the CPR

Sir Alister Hardy at a MicroscopeBorn 10th February 1896 in Nottingham, England, Sir Alister Clavering Hardy FRS, was the son of an architect. He had intended, and in fact was accepted to Oxford University in 1914, but the outbreak of war meant he enrolled in the army instead.

Post-war, he went to Oxford and started studying zoology in 1919, going on to graduate with distinction. His interest in marine plankton came when he was awarded the Naples Scholarship, and from here he was taken on as zoologist on the RRS Discovery voyage to the Antarctic 1925-1927. It was on this voyage he invented the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR). This and his ground-breaking research into plankton forms the basis of the work of the CPR Survey today.

Sir Alister was knighted in 1957 for his work in marine biology.

On retiring, he founded the Religious Experience Research Unit at Oxford University, highlighting his interests in religion. Another of his loves, art, was brought to the fore when he travelled in his later years. He went East to the likes of India, Asia, China and Japan, painting with watercolours so his artwork is a mix of marine life and Far Eastern temples.

Sir Alister Hardy died aged 90, in Oxford on 22nd May, 1985.

The CPR Survey

Since the first CPR tow in the North Sea in 1931 by Sir Alister Hardy, the methodology has remained consistent and has been used across the world's oceans, as well as in the North Sea, the Mediterranean, the Baltic, and in freshwater lakes. However, the core CPR programme of monthly, synoptic sampling has focused on the northwest European shelf and in the Northeast and Northwest Atlantic.

In the course of its history, the Survey has operated from Hull, Edinburgh and its current home, Plymouth. The Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS) started operating from the Citadel Hill Laboratory in Plymouth in 1990. The Survey has now towed more than 6 1/2 million nautical miles.

In April 2018, the CPR Survey was incorporated into the Marine Biological Association (MBA).

Further information on the Continuous Plankton Recorder