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John Fincham

It is very sad to have to report that Emeritus Professor John Fincham, FRS, FRSE, died on 9 February 2005. Professor Fincham was at Leeds between 1966 and 1976 and his long-standing friend, colleague and co-author, Dr Alan Radford, has contributed the following obituary:

"John Fincham, who died earlier this month at the age of 78, was the first Professor of Genetics and Head of the Department of Genetics at Leeds from 1966 to 1976.

John was born in 1926, attended Hertford Grammar School, and went on to Peterhouse, Cambridge University as an undergraduate. He graduated in Botany in 1946, and stayed on to obtain his Ph D in 1950.

In 1950, John married Ann Emerson, the daughter of pioneer fungal geneticists Stirling and Mary Emerson. They had one son and three daughters.

At first a Lecturer in Botany at Leicester University from 1950-1954 (Reader in Genetics from 1954-60), then Associate Professor of Genetics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1960-61, John moved on to become Head of the Genetics Division of the John Innes Institute from 1961-66.

John was appointed as Professor and Head of the new Department of Genetics in Leeds at the end of 1964, formally taking up the post in October 1966. He was on a wide range of committees during his decade here, including Readerships, House and Estates, Finance, Library Executive and the Academic Advisory Committee. He served as Chairman of the School of Biological Sciences from 1973-76. During his period in Leeds, in 1969, John was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

After a decade in Leeds and a sabbatical year at Caltech, John moved to pastures new, first as Buchanan Professor of Genetics at Edinburgh from 1976-84, and then as Balfour Professor of Genetics at Cambridge from 1984-91. John then retired and moved back to Edinburgh, but continued actively writing and publishing until 2000.

During his academic career, John served as Editor of Heredity from 1971-78 and President of The Genetical Society from 1978-81. He authored major monographs on fungal genetics and genetic complementation and a genetics textbook. His research was initially on highly mutable genes in plants, an interest he pursued throughout most of his research career. However, his main interest became fungal genetics, specifically relating to the ascomycete Neurospora crassa. In this, his publications reflect his work on gene function and regulation, fine structure, the colinearity of the gene and its protein product, and the application of in vitro methods including protein sequencing, DNA sequencing and genetic transformation. If anyone can take the credit for leading fungal genetics from the classical to the molecular era, it is John Fincham."

Published: 22 February 2005