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Department of Plant Sciences

In recognition of Professor Richard West FRS

Richard West, Head of Department 1977-91, died on 30 Dec 2020 after a short illness

We are sorry to relate that Professor Richard West FRS, a former Head of Department, died on 30th December 2020, at the age of 94. Richard read Natural Sciences, and took Botany at Part II, leading to a PhD with Professor Harry Godwin. By integrating palaeobotanical stratigraphy with strong geological insights, he made significant discoveries on vegetation succession during various interglacial periods. He became a Fellow at Clare in 1954, and successive posts within the Department (then the Botany School) culminated in the leadership of the Quaternary Research Subdepartment. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1968, and successive promotions to become the Chair in Botany, and Head of Department, which he held until his retirement in 1991.

He continued research throughout his retirement, and only a few years ago proudly related his theory on how the common sources of the Rivers Waveney (running east)  and Little Ouse (to the west) could occur on either end of a flat fen (Redgrave and Lopham, near Thetford). His solution? The fens lie at the base of once what had been a large lake holding glacial meltwater, only for a boulder clay barrier some way down the current River Waveney, to have been eroded at the outflow!