Reporter 453, 5 June 2000


Emeritus Professor Reginald Dawson Preston FRS died on May 3

Preston (no first names in the formal academic world of his generation) was born in 1909 in Leeds. He studied Physics and Botany at Leeds before a PhD and then post-doctorate work at Cornell in the United States. Returning to Leeds as a lecturer, he soon found himself in a unique position.

He was virtually the only person in the country in 1948 with any real background in both physics and botany, in possession of an electron microscope. He had only to play his cards right to be successful - and he did, brilliantly. For over 20 years, he was the countryís foremost expert in the ultrastructure of the plant cell wall (and favourite consultant to the timber treatment industry). Even to this day, if you open a biology textbook and see an electron micrograph showing the alignment of cellulose microfibrils in a plant cell wall - the odds are that it will be one of Prestonís pictures.

The creation of the Astbury Department of Biophysics was Prestonís final great enterprise. He single-handedly created a viable department and a trail-blazing course.

As a widely-respected elder statesman, Preston was always in great demand to chair committees both within the University and elsewhere (giving rise to the departmental catchphrase Ďof which I am chairmaní). He ran the University Library committee and was president of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society.

He had the authority of a great scientific figure and I feel some sense of pride in having known him. There were giants in those days.

John Lydon

A full version of this obituary is available here

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