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Peter Richard Bradley: 1937–2021

Peter Bradley, board member of the British Herbal Medicine Association (BHMA), died on September 15, 2021, near his hometown of Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol, United Kingdom, at age 84.

Bradley was born on June 15, 1937. A chemist by training and fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, he completed a master’s degree in carbohydrate chemistry in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, before returning to the United Kingdom. He developed a passion for the science of herbal medicines in the 1980s and joined the BHMA Advisory Board, serving as chairman from 2010 to 2013 and never retiring from the board.

He applied his considerable talents to many industry roles, including heading teams developing over-the-counter medicines and leading commercial health food manufacturing operations in India and Puerto Rico. His professional career included the development and supply of herbal medicines for global companies, including Brewhurst Health Supplies, Booker Group, Gerard House, and American Home Products Corporation.

Bradley’s passion, however, remained the science of herbal medicines. His most personal contribution to the BHMA was his authoring and production of the two volumes of the British Herbal Compendium: A Handbook of Scientific Information on Widely Used Plant Drugs, published in 1992 and 2006. These groundbreaking publications were labors of love, and Bradley retired early to complete the second volume. In addition to these solo efforts, Bradley was the driving force behind all the BHMA’s scientific publications and handled the marketing and sale of all BHMA books from his home. He contributed to every BHMA book published since 1983, all of which continue to be sold around the world. These are, and will remain, at the core of his legacy to herbal medicine and the BHMA.

More broadly, he was passionate about the work, objectives, and future of the BHMA. A staunch supporter and protector of the organization, he worked tirelessly to secure its long-term future and was a vocal campaigner for the application of the highest scientific standards to herbal medicines and, ultimately, the availability of high-quality products to the public.

Bradley’s influence and impact in the field of herbal medicine was not restricted to the UK. He was a leading figure in the BHMA’s membership process to the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) and an integral member of the UK’s ESCOP delegation since the foundation meeting of ESCOP in June 1989. His European colleagues immediately recognized his talents for scientific writing and attention to detail, and, in addition to co-chairing ESCOP scientific committees from 1989 to 2011, he acted as “editor in chief” to oversee the development and publication of more than 60 scientific monographs. These ESCOP monographs, and the supporting scientific literature, underpinned much of the review work completed by the European Union’s Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products. These reviews resulted in many of the accepted and approved efficacy claims that are applied to herbal medicinal products sold across Europe today.

The scale of Bradley’s impact on the field of herbal medicine can in many ways be directly linked to his personal values and character. With almost all the work on BHMA and ESCOP publications in the early 1990s completed manually, without the aid of the internet or electronic databases, his determination routinely led him to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Royal Society of Chemistry libraries to gather paper copies of scientific articles. He would then organize the papers alphabetically and chronologically into binders for review and possible reference in an herbal monograph. His passion and intellect, and an unrelenting need to find every piece of published information on whatever herb he was working on at the time, allowed him to produce many of the finest reviews of medicinal plant chemistry, pharmacology, and clinical efficacy, despite eventually filling many of the rooms of his house and garage with scientific literature.

Bradley’s attention to detail was without parallel, and he nurtured an old-fashioned respect for the written word. As an editor, he was, in effect, a writer’s worst nightmare, having a hawkeyed attention to grammar and punctuation. On many occasions, an author’s draft manuscript would be returned annotated with a sea of suggested corrections in red ink. It was, however, his charm and good grace that enabled him to soothe the writer’s despair and ultimately deliver a finely honed written product. His focus on words extended to his focus on numbers, and in his leadership roles for ESCOP and BHMA he always demanded the highest standard in relation to financial management.

In addition to his staunch protection of herbal medicine, Bradley was also a fierce defender of the environment as early as the 1980s. He was passionate in both words and actions on conserving Earth’s resources by minimizing his consumption of energy and materials and never missing an opportunity for recycling.

Bradley’s huge personality meant he was, without fail, the star at dinner gatherings, where he was recognized universally by his colleagues and friends for his kind, warm, fun-loving personality and renowned for his passion, good humor, and generosity.

During Bradley’s three-plus decades with the BHMA, his scientific training, attention to detail, and determination helped shape the BHMA into an organization with the principles of modern science at its core. In 2015, his contributions to the BHMA were recognized formally with an award at the association’s 50th anniversary celebration event held at Barber-Surgeons’ Hall in London. The BHMA publications and ESCOP monographs will remain his legacy and effectively memorialize the significant impact he has made on the scientific and therapeutic application of herbal medicine across the European continent and beyond. In honor of his contributions to scientific writing, the BHMA will establish a prize for students of herbal medicine in the UK. Bradley will be sorely missed but remembered as a fundamental and truly memorable part of the BHMA and its history.