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Obituary: John Attridge

First Head of Birkbeck’s Department of Biology

Birkbeck is sad to announce the passing of John Attridge - a much-loved former colleague and lecturer known for finding new and important dinosaur fossils. He worked for Birkbeck for more than 30 years and held senior positions at the College. Mr Attridge was 83.

Mr Attridge was a Fulbright Scholar, and he came to Birkbeck from St Andrews in 1956. He was a senior lecturer in Zoology and served as the last Head of the Zoology Department and the first Head of the new Biology Department. He stayed at the College until his retirement in 1987. He was well-known and influential throughout Birkbeck.

Mr Attridge was also Chairman of the Board of Examiners for the University of London External System’s BSc Degree in Zoology, President of the Senior Common Room, and President of the Tetrapods Club – a club for palaeontologists and anatomists that dates back to the time of Thomas Huxley.

Personal memories

Dr David Havill, a lecturer in Biology since 1974 at Birkbeck, knew Mr Attridge well and was a close friend. He said: “John was a palaeontologist with a particular knack of finding new or important dinosaur fossils in various parts of the world. He was very tall (over 6’ 5”) with a personality to match. A spell-binding raconteur, he was also an inspired teacher in the lecture theatre, in the laboratory and in the field. John was very well known and influential throughout the College. Many people of that era would have known him well.”

Geoff Coast, a former colleague and friend, added: “John was a larger-than-life character, an outstanding teacher and a great raconteur. He was also a great friend. There will be generations of students who will recall his lectures on topics as diverse as vertebrate head segmentation, the neural crest, and the origins of homeothermy in dinosaurs, and his contributions to numerous marine biology field courses.”