Obituary: Professor Heather van der Lely

Wellcome Trust Research Fellow and Reader in Psycholinguistics at Birkbeck from 1991 to 2001

Professor Heather van der Lely died on 17 February 2014, aged 58.

After her 10 years at Birkbeck, Heather van der Lely moved to UCL as Professor of Developmental Language Disorders and Cognitive Neuroscience, later becoming Affiliated Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University.

Professor van der Lely was known nationally and internationally for her work on language acquisition and its disorders, particularly as the discoverer of Grammatical-Specific Language Impairment. Professor Steven Pinker of Harvard University said: "Heather made an irreplaceable contribution to the science of language by documenting the first syndrome of language impairment that appeared to be concentrated in grammatical ability, as opposed to a more generic deficit in perception, memory, or social skills.

“She was respected by her scientific colleagues for her eagerness to collaborate and her willingness to challenge her own hypotheses with diverse empirical tests, and by her students and friends for her personal warmth, intellectual assertiveness, and hearty laugh."