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Date of birth: 1953
Mark Hyde was born in Canada in December 1953 to English parents. His father Jim Hyde was a school teacher at Sedburgh School in the wilds of Ontario. His mother Enid Hyde, did not particularly enjoy the rigours of life in Canada, especially in winter with a small baby, and they returned to England by boat in July 1954.
In 1959, Jim Hyde obtained a post at Woolverstone Hall School in Suffolk. For the next 20 years, the family lived in a house in the grounds of the 18th century hall, surrounded by fields and woodland and a section of the tidal river Orwell with its interesting maritime habitats. The area provided plenty of scope for Mark's interest in wild flowers which was already well-developed by primary school.
After passing the 11 plus, Mark went to Ipswich School. His main interests at this time were mathematics and science, although not particularly biology, and also languages, for which a good memory was useful.
In c. 1970, Mark and his mother began systematically recording flowers in Suffolk. The records were written by hand on A4 pages with one page per species. Dates and grid references were recorded and a start was made on a private herbarium.
These records were used extensively in Simpson's Flora of Suffolk (1982). Family holidays from 1966 onwards were taken in the Alps and the interest in plants expanded to continental Europe.
In October 1973, Mark went to Jesus College Cambridge to read Mathematics. At this time plants took a bit of a back seat but he was a member of the Natural History Society and attended meetings at Hayley Wood, led on at least one occasion by Oliver Rackham. Botanical trips were made with his mother to points on the railway line between Ipswich and Cambridge, e.g. to Bury St Edmunds.
After graduation in 1976, Mark obtained employment in Ipswich as a trainee actuary with Willis Faber and Dumas Ltd. Botanical recording continued mostly on the Suffolk flora and on holiday in continental Europe with the focus of interest shifting towards the areas south of the Alps and in particular Mediterranean floras with visits to Italy, Spain, Corsica, Greece (Crete and Athens), Slovenia, Pyrenees and France (Alpes Maritimes).
Of special interest was a visit to Lanjaron in southern Spain in 1977 on one of the last trips organised by John Carr. This was particularly eye-opening because of the high level of skills demonstrated by the members of the party and in particular the leader Eric Clement. Mark and Eric became friends and undertook trips to Crete (1978) and the Pyrenees (1979) together.
Back in the UK, Eric was the source of much botanical guidance. Enid, Mark and Eric would meet on Saturdays in the European herbarium of the British Museum (Natural History) to name specimens collected on the various trips.
In 1983, Willis seconded Mark to Zimbabwe on a one year contract to help start up an actuarial consulting company in Harare. The contract was extended many times and Mark achieved permanent residence in the early 1990s. He qualified as an actuary in 1988 and took over as managing director of the consulting company. In 1996, the company was bought by the management and staff.
On arrival in Zimbabwe, botany was certainly not neglected. Mark was plunged into an essentially unfamiliar but fascinating flora. For the first few years in Zimbabwe, because the stay in Zimbabwe was expected to be short, Mark worked on grasses only, studying those found near Harare. As the connection with Zimbabwe became more long term, his interests extended to all vascular plants.
Mark married Linda Harwin in 1984 and they have two children, Robert and Andrew.
Trips were made, often with his family and with the Tree Society, to many parts of Zimbabwe, giving many opportunities to record and collect.
In 1992, Mark decided to write a flora of the Central Division of Zimbabwe. By selecting a limited area of Zimbabwe only it was hoped that the task would be one manageable by one person. However, by 2001 it was obvious that the exercise was not going to be soon completed given the circumstances in Zimbabwe some other approach was necessary.
Mark therefore turned to using the web for botanical publication and on 10 March 2002, the Zimbabwe flora website www.zimbabweflora.co.zw was put online. Initially the site was used to create checklists of Zimbabwean species. However, after Bart Wursten and Petra Ballings became involved in January 2004, the site rapidly began to develop into an online flora. Since then, fieldwork mainly within Zimbabwe has continued, as also has work on the flora.
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