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6 de agosto de 2009

Chris Humphries – Natural History Museum, London (1947—2009)

It is our sad task to record the death of Professor Chris Humphries,
merit researcher in the Botany Department until his retirement in 2007,
on Friday 31st July. Chris was a leading figure in the cladistic
revolution in systematics and biogeography. Without his tireless
efforts, systematic botany - perhaps systematic biology - would be a
very different beast.

Chris joined the Botany Department in 1972 as an assistant curator, a
nearly-finished PhD student, coming directly from Vernon Heywood's
Botany Department in Reading University. With the exception of three
sabbaticals - two of them at the University of Melbourne (1979-80, 1986)
and a six month stay as a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
(Institute for Advanced Study, Berlin) in 1994 - Chris spent his entire
career in the Museum.

Chris's early botanical research was on Asteraceae (daisies) and
Macaronesia but during the 1970s and 1980s most of his intellectual
effort went into developing, exploring and promoting cladistic
systematics and cladistic biogeography. These efforts yielded two much
acclaimed books: Cladistic Biogeography (1986) (with Lynne Parenti, of
the Smithsonian; a revised 2nd edition appeared in 1999) for
biogeography, and Cladistics: A practical course in systematics (1992)
(with staff of the Natural History Museum; a revised 2nd edition
appeared in 1998 as Cladistics: the theory and practice of parsimony
analysis). Both books became standard works in their field.

Chris's interest in art made him the perfect choice for organising and
annotating the first complete full-colour edition of Banks' Florilegium,
published between 1980 and 1990. The project marked the beginning of
Chris's love affair with Australia and her flora, the enigmatic southern
beeches and the problems of explaining organism distribution in the
Southern Hemisphere. The Florilegium consists of over 700 botanical line
engravings made from Sydney Parkinson's watercolours, recording the
plants collected by Joseph Banks and Daniel Carl Solander on Captain
James Cook's first voyage around the world (1768-1771).

After 1990, Chris (with Dick Vane-Wright and Paul Williams, both of the
Entomology Department) put biogeographical matters to more practical
use, addressing what they called the "Agony of Choice" - the
conservationists' dilemma - with their 'WorldMap' approach to
conservation biology, combining taxonomic, ecological and biogeographic
information into one system. After a decade of collaboration with many
different and diverse groups of researchers working on many different
organisms, Chris returned to more fundamental matters in biogeographical
investigation and to the distribution of plants on Macaronesia, the
islands he began with as a student.

During his career, Chris received many honours; the Linnean Society's
Bicentenary Medal in 1980 and their Gold Medal in 2001; he was also an
Honorary Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of
Science. He was President of the Systematics Association (2001-2003) as
well as its Treasurer (1996-9), and President of the Willi Hennig
Society (1989-1991), being elected a Fellow honoris causa in 1998. Chris
was also Vice-President and Botanical Secretary of the Linnean Society

In 2008, a three-day Meeting was held in his honour at the Linnean
Society; a Festschrift will be published in early 2010.

David M. Williams & Charlie Jarvis

Botany Department

The Natural History Museum

Cromwell Road

London SW7 5BD



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