J.O.C. (Jock) Neill was born in 1882 and died in 1978, aged 96. He was originally trained as an engineer and gained a diploma of an Associate of the Otago School on Mines and worked many years in NZ and the USA as a mining engineer. He served as a lieutenant with the NZ Tunnelling Company during WW1. He then graduated BSc from Victoria University in 1924. He became a pioneer plant microbiologist in the field of agriculture. He was an excellent and creative researcher and was a member of the pioneering Biological Laboratory of the Department of Agriculture before he transferred to the Plant Research Station at Palmerston North.
Jock's notable discoveries in microbiology included blind-seed disease of ryegrass and pioneering studies on an endophyte of ryegrass which in later years would be implicated in the ryegrass staggers affliction of sheep. He also studied field crop diseases and developed a hot water treatment for the control of loose smut of wheat and barley, and also worked on dry-rot diseases of Brassica species. Jock was a 'father figure' in the early days of NZ microbiology and he was elected the first President of NZMS at the first AGM in 1956 where he delivered the inaugural address. He was elected an Honorary Member of NZMS in 1964.