Obituary: Professor John Cloudsley-Thompson

Emeritus Professor of Zoology

John Cloudsley-Thompson died on 4 October 2013 at the age of 92.

Born in 1921 at Murree in India (now in modern-day Pakistan), Dr Cloudsley-Thompson was stationed in North Africa in the Second World War. It was here that he began to develop a great interest in desert wildlife, and he adopted some of the native animals, including a baby fox - for which he had bartered with overripe bananas and some loose change.

He became a tank commander by the time he was 21 and went on to survive an ambush on his tank, in which all of his crew were injured or killed and which left him with a severe leg injury.

John came to Birkbeck in 1972 as Professor of Zoology. His motivation was simple: he was fascinated by animals and how they interacted with their environment. While at Birkbeck he was known to be not only a passionate teacher, but also a great listener, nurturing and engaging with his students, often sitting on a lab bench and chatting to students long after the lecture had finished. He would turn up to the College on his 70cc motorcycle, wearing a leather flying jacket, a helmet and goggles. On leaving Birkbeck in 1986, John became an Emeritus Professor.

Richard Griffiths, who was a PhD student under John’s supervision from 1979 to 1983, remembers Professor Cloudsley-Thompson with great affection. He said: “He was an incredibly warm, kindly and modest man. He was a great inspiration to me and many others around the world. I know other students will also remember him with great affection.”