Robert Hay grew up in the Moray countryside, was schooled in Forres, and studied science at Aberdeen University. His career as an environmental and agricultural scientist has taken him to many parts of the world, with prolonged periods in Africa and Scandinavia. After retiring from the post of Director of the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency in 2004 he was Visiting Professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala. He is the author or co-author of several text books in his professional field, including translations into German and Japanese. The third edition of Environmental Physiology of Plants was published by Academic Press in 2002, and the second edition of The Physiology of Crop Yield by Blackwell Scientific Publications in 2006. He has edited several other volumes, including the proceedings of science policy symposia. Since retiring from scientific work, he has concentrated on the history of land use. Lochnavando No More: The Life and Death of a Moray Farming Community 1750–1850 (Birlinn) appeared in 2005; Lismore, the Great Garden (Birlinn) in 2009; and How an Island Lost its People in 2013. He contributed to the Agriculture volume of Scottish Life and Society: A Compendium of Scottish Ethnology, published by John Donald in 2011. Since 2007, he has lived full-time on the Isle of Lismore, where he is the archivist at the Lismore Heritage Centre.