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Obituary: Richard Andrew (1932-2018)

Prof Richard Andrew. Photo: Lesley Rogers

Richard Andrew, Emeritus Professor of Biology at the University of Sussex, died on 15 August aged 86.

As an undergraduate Richard studied Zoology at Cambridge, followed by a PhD on the behaviour of buntings with Robert Hinde.

He then went to the Edward Grey Institute in Oxford for a brief post-doc in which he analysed the mobbing behaviour of blackbirds (to defend themselves or their offspring from predators).

In 1959 Richard was appointed as an Assistant Professor at Yale and studied vocal and facial communication in a variety of primates, some of them kept around his house. He was very much a pioneer in this field and wrote some important, widely quoted papers.

In 1965 he was recruited to a Readership at Sussex by the founding Dean of the School of Biological Sciences (Biols), John Maynard Smith, and was promoted to a Chair in 1968.

At Sussex his main research was on domestic chicks, mainly focussed on their behaviour, but with some work on brain mechanisms.

His first interest was in how testosterone leads them to be persistent, particularly in aspects of food searching behaviour, and with this began a lifelong collaboration with Lesley Rogers, then a doctoral student.

Then, most notably with Lesley, who had moved back to Australia, and later Giorgio Vallortigara (University of Trento) and Adam Miklosi (Eötvös Loránd University), he moved on to studies of lateralisation of behaviour, and this is the topic that dominated the last part of his career. Together they provided evidence that lateralisation is an ancient characteristic in the vertebrate line, and not something uniquely associated with language in our own species.

Richard was a truly original thinker who always had a different slant on things, stimulating and interesting.

It is striking that his most cited work spans his entire career, and he continued to publish and write until the last few months of his life.

He had a crucial role in the development of neuroscience and animal behaviour at Sussex, recruiting Mike Land, Tom Collett, Paul Benjamin, Ian Russell, Fred Miles, Peter Slater, Tim Clutton-Brock and others, who formed a group that was unique in the UK for combining the ethological study of behaviour with neuroscience. Three of his recruits went on to be elected to the Royal Society. In 1972 the group established the first neurobiology degree in the UK.

Richard’s broader contributions included a period as Dean of Biols and as President of the Association of the Study of Animal Behaviour.

Although quite a private man, Richard set the relaxed and friendly tone of the group, and its great success was much to his credit. Communal morning coffee in his office was almost compulsory and enormously effective in terms of developing the science that was being done, as well as being great fun given the wide range of Richard’s interests in the humanities and politics as well as science.

Pete Clifton (Sussex) and Peter Slater (St Andrews)

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Posted on behalf of: School of Life Sciences
Last updated: Tuesday, 28 August 2018

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