Bulletin: The University Newsletter
The University of Sussex


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Photo of Bob Copper

Bob Copper

Folklorist Bob Copper, who received an honorary degree from Sussex in 2000, died last month at the age of 89. Mr Copper, who lived in Peacehaven, collected traditional songs and tales from rural downland villages. He wrote many books about the county of Sussex, including A Song for Every Season and Bob Copper's Sussex.


Christopher Longuet-Higgins

Photo of Christopher Longuet-HigginsChristopher Longuet-Higgins, Emeritus Professor in Experimental Psychology, died on 27 March at the age of 80.

One of the last great polymaths, he made important scientific advances in two quite different disciplines - chemistry and artificial intelligence - and many people think he was unlucky not to receive a Nobel Prize for his work in the former.

After undergraduate study at Oxford in both chemistry and music, Christopher had short spells at Chicago and Manchester Universities, before moving to a chair in theoretical physics at King's College London in 1952.

In 1954 he joined the eminent Department of Theoretical Chemistry at Cambridge and built it further to become arguably the outstanding such department in the world. In theoretical chemistry he made outstanding contributions in quantum chemistry and statistical mechanics.

It was a surprise therefore to most chemists when in 1967 he decided to move into artificial intelligence, giving up his Cambridge position for a research fellowship at Edinburgh University. He had also started publishing important papers in music from 1962 onwards.

Christopher showed a formidable talent in his new field. Together with postgraduate and postdoctoral workers, he made important early contributions in informatics, neural networks and language generation by computer. Christopher, unsure what to call the sort of research he conducted, coined the term "cognitive science" in a paper in 1973.

In 1974 Christopher transferred his Royal Society research professorship to Sussex, where he joined the Experimental Psychology group in the School of Biological Sciences. He continued his work on artificial intelligence, making an important contribution to understanding how the brain analyses information about depth and distance in sequences of visual images.

Christopher was a tough postgraduate supervisor and an aggressive contributor to colloquia and scientific meetings; many an invited speaker wilted under his comments. Nor did he waste words in his writings: Christopher's penultimate scientific paper, published in 1995, has the title '150 words on consciousness'.

Christopher was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1958, a Foreign Associate of the US Academy of Sciences in 1968, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1970. He had honorary doctorates from the universities of Bristol, Essex, Sheffield, Sussex and York.

Dr Zoltan Dienes, Reader in Experimental Psychology


Larry Trask

Photo of Larry TraskProfessor Larry Trask died aged 59 on 27 March, after a progressive illness lasting about two years.

It is hard to do justice to Larry's contribution to Linguistics and English Language at Sussex, or to his subject in general, in a few lines. The death of a scholar in service and with his intellectual powers intact must always diminish his colleagues.

He was a popular teacher, generous with his time and knowledge to students and staff alike.

His publications include many guides to ideas about language for the benefit of students and the serious general reader that are models of clarity and accuracy.

This same desire for rigour informed his research. He was one of the world's foremost scholars of Basque, and he wrote a history of the language that is both outstanding in its own terms and a superb vindication of the methods of classical historical linguistics, of which he had also written a fine textbook.

Larry's interests were wide, and he had recently been involved with the question of the origin of language in general and with the relation between different language-families, as well as writing guides to Internet etiquette and punctuation.

He wore his learning with real modesty and never sought the front of the stage he found himself on in the last eight years or so of his life, though he held his own there with distinction.

It is painful to think that the festschrift he was to receive, with contributions from all the leading scholars in his field, will now be a memorial volume, especially since his own last academic activity was to try and complete an article for a memorial volume to another scholar.

The respect and love that Larry evoked in us are mixed with sadness and bitterness at the cruelty of his illness, which robbed him of his speech and then broke his health bit by bit. We will deeply miss his part in our lives as a colleague and friend, and we will not forget that, true to himself, he was still entertaining us with comments on his reading emailed from his bed two days before he died.

23rd April 2004

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