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david robinson

Professor David S Robinson, BSc, PhD, FIFST

Colleagues will be sorry to hear of the death, on 9 April 2014, of Professor David Robinson, former Professor of Food Science in the Procter Department of Food Science.

David was educated at Burnley Grammar School, where he excelled in science subjects, before studying for a BSc in Biochemistry and a PhD in Chemistry (1961) at the University of Manchester. He spent the earlier part of his career as a Principal Scientific Officer for the Agricultural Research Council (first in Cambridge and then in Norwich) where his main interests lay in the chemistry of eggs and, in particular, innovative work upon the proteins in egg albumen. From 1968 he also acted as a guest lecturer on chemistry at the University of East Anglia, before joining the University in 1974 as Professor of Food Science and Head of Department of the (then) Procter Department of Food and Leather Science.

David was a dedicated scientist with highly developed analytical skills and a true eye for detail. His innovative research and research methodologies were highly interdisciplinary, dealing as they did with aspects of the application of chemistry and biochemistry to food raw materials and food science, with many industrial and practical applications. His work on successfully elucidating the mechanism by which β-carotene is enzymically oxyidised, for example, generated great interest, particularly as it was completed just as much higher importance was being attached to carotenoids in health and nutrition.

In his role as Head of School, David provided clear leadership and demonstrated a strong commitment to the interests of the school and its students and staff, which he consistently put before personal concerns or interests. He was a popular and trusted colleague whose straightforward and sage advice was much sought after. He was also very active on a range of internal committees and bodies, including safety committees and faculty boards, and as an external representative of the University – for example on the Court of the University of Lancaster and the governing body of Scarborough College.

A major professional achievement of David’s period as Head of Food Science at the University of Leeds was the establishment of its international reputation for research excellence. This was ultimately reflected in the years surrounding his retirement in the Department’s receipt of the highest available research rating (5*) in two successive Research Assessment Exercises (RAE1996 and RAE2001). Another important achievement, of which he was deservedly known to be proud, was the planning and management of the physical move of the Department from old Victorian buildings behind the Brotherton Library into a new purpose site on the south side of the campus. Substantial financial contributions from the food industry for this building project were made with the strong support and respect of the Department’s Industrial Advisory Committee, with whom David had an exceptionally close working relationship. These positive developments during David’s leadership ensured the continuing vitality of the Procter Department, and possibly its ultimate survival, during some rather challenging years after his retirement when the Department’s financial position would become increasingly weakened due to the fall in interest from prospective students in the less than fashionable subject of food science and technology.

Despite the considerable time and energy devoted to his research and administrative roles, David was also a popular teacher, in particular upon the MSc programme that he directed from 1994, which included food chemistry and enzymology and which was uniquely broad and holistic in its perspective. He acted as an Assessor and External Examiner for many institutions over the years, and was particularly successful at developing international partnerships and links. He was in demand as a visiting lecturer throughout Europe, as well as further afield, his links with New Zealand and Singapore proving particularly beneficial to the department in terms of student recruitment and programme enhancement. He was also an energetic contributor to national and international professional bodies; acting, for example, as an adviser to the Association of Commonwealth Universities as well as a founder member of the Educational Board for Food Chemistry and a Fellow (and former Vice-President) of the Institute of Food Science and Technology.

Possessed of a modest, unassuming manner, David was nonetheless a man of great principal and honesty whose relations with colleagues and students alike were characterised by dignity and integrity. He was greatly respected for his commitment and perceptiveness -and his ability to speak plainly and offer realistic advice, but without causing affront. He will be remembered with great esteem and affection.

The funeral service has been held, on which day the flag on the Parkinson Building was flown at half-mast in David’s memory.