Alan Parkin, Professor of Experimental Psychology, died on Friday 12 November, aged 49, after suffering a cardiac arrest on Wednesday. He was an international authority on neuropsychology and a gifted communicator, equally at home addressing a world congress, a packed hall of undergraduates or the studio audience of the Esther Ranzen show.
Al had spent almost all of his working life at Sussex. After a BSc in Zoology at Reading he took the Experimental Psychology MSc conversion course and then stayed on at Sussex to do a DPhil on word recognition. He held a temporary lectureship for two years, had a year as a lecturer at Goldsmith's College and then returned to a permanent position at Sussex in 1982. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1989, Reader the following year, and Professor in 1993. He held named visiting fellowships in New Zealand and Australia.
His extensive experimental and theoretical work on normal reading, face-recognition and memory provided a firm cognitive foundation for the work for which he will be best remembered - his analysis of memory and other cognitive disorders in brain-damaged patients. At the forefront of the new cognitive neuropsychology, Al was internationally renowned for his work on amnesia, in particular the different varieties produced by such conditions as Korsakoff's syndrome, encephalitis, aneurysm and temporal and frontal lobe damage. He was particularly interested in the practical problems of rehabilitation and of helping those with a memory impairment.
As an expert with a gift for clear exposition, Al appeared frequently on both local and national radio and television ranging from "Medicine Now" through to "Esther". This gift was also responsible for his enviable success both as a lecturer and as an author. His three textbooks on neuropsychology have had multiple reprintings and have been translated into Japanese, German and Spanish. His eighth and ninth books were close to publication.
Although his work on amnesia was his most distinguished contribution to psychology (and had recently received the accolade of a large international Human Frontiers Grant), Al's research interests were wide (shared by 20 past and present research students) and continued to expand, with work on implicit memory, memory in children and the effects of ageing on cognitive performance. With his partner Frances Aldrich, he also undertook research into the problem of providing blind people with the information normally conveyed by graphs. His work showed that practical problems can be the stimulus for research that is both useful and theoretically important - a style that arose from an acute intellect and a forthright personality.
Al's personality will be well known to the many on campus who have shared an innings, a committee or an evening with him, and have delighted, if somewhat fearfully, in his seemingly endless range of anecdotes and his enviable inside information. His mean bass guitar in the almost world-famous Big Bad Dan Bandanna Band will be missed by a generation of line-dancers.
The University has lost a distinguished researcher and an inspired teacher. Our sympathies go to his partner Frances and their young daughter Verity.