The article immediately below first appeared in Life Sighs, the online magazine of the former School of Life Sciences of the University of Sussex, Issue 15 (Summer 2009). It is re-published here by kind permission of the compiler, Dorothy Lamb.

A Life in Life Sciences: Colin Atherton

[Colin Atherton]

During his National Service, Colin was a photographic technician in the Royal Air Force. He joined the University in October 1965 and was very much part of the fabric of life here for over 40 years and will be dearly missed. Here are a few of the many memories from his colleagues:

"Gentle humour, friendly ways."

"A great photographer and an asset to the School - I always bought marmalade from him for the Tortoise Society."

"He arrived in the days of 'wet' photography and spent his working day, if not actually taking photos, developing them in his red-lit darkroom before technology developed and he learned the art of digital photography."

"He took a photo of me for the website and managed to take one of me licking my lips (which looked like I was sticking out my tongue), he blew it up to A4 size and pinned it to my office door to greet me the next day! Fortunately it didn't make it to the web."

"In his shooting days, he used to supply me with pigeons at a remarkably cheap price and turn up with a large carrier bag full at a time. Colin had to sell his shotgun in order to fund his divorce - a fact that he very much regretted but about which he was typically philosophical. It was, he said "not especially important in the overall scheme of things", though his tone of voice suggested it was especially important to him. I regretted it too because it meant no more pigeons!"

"I remember his dry and very politically incorrect way of referring to his succession of spouses, W1, W2."

"It is really difficult to encapsulate Colin within BIOLS and Life Sciences. An extremely individual character. I learned to improve my photomicrography with Colin, then we went digital. I learned to understand Colin's jokes and discoveries, and felt better for that. I have a recurring image of Colin gliding along the corridors of Life Sci, silently, bearing carefully lettered prints and reels of film. My family also have a debt to Colin for many pigeons that came to our table from his hunting."

"As a keen photographer myself, I always enjoyed my little chats with Colin - whether it was about the latest cameras and techniques or about putting the world to right, it was always interesting and memorable. I find it rather uncanny that he left us so suddenly - rather like the click of a shutter!"

Colin's one-time colleague Richard Sumner, now in New Zealand, contributes the following (February 2012):

Whilst 'googling' people that I had worked with years ago I was sad to see the Obituary to Colin. I met him on my first day of employment in February 1957 at The British Paper and Board Industries Research Association at the St Winifred's Laboratories, Kenley. He asked my name - and before I could reply said "I know - we'll call you Fredo with an H". He and another colleague (Mike Goodger) then made me a 'Sheriffs Star' from cardboard, wrote FREDOH on it and stapled it to the top pocket of my bright new Lab coat. We worked in the Physics 'B' dept which was responsible for the Photographic output of the Association. Colin did the studio/darkroom printing and off-site work. Mike's job was mainly to enlarge photographs taken through the Vickers Electron and Beck Microscopes. Along with Ray Pettit (Physics 'A' dept) they ran the 'Ginger Beer Syndicate' using Winchester bottles complete with skull-and-crossbones labels.

Colin had a B.S.A. 150c.c. Bantam motorcycle and wore a 'Police style' Corker safety helmet. At that time his own camera was an AGIFLEX (a British 'copy' based on the German Reflex Korelle) made by A.G.I. in Purley Way, Croydon. I recall that his father was in the Fire Service. Colin was attending evening classes at The School of Photography in Regent Street Polytechnic to gain his I.B.P. qualifications. (I was fortunate enough on leaving B.P.&B.I.R.A. in December 1957 to join Powers-Samas at Whyteleafe, to be able to attend day-release at Regent St. Poly.)

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