9 October, 2014 News stories

Tribute to former Director of British Antarctic Survey

It is with great sadness the British Antarctic Survey reports that Dick Laws died on Monday 6 October 2014 aged 88. He was Director of BAS from 1973 – 1987.

Dr Richard Laws was born in Northumberland and educated at Cambridge. His early career was as a zoologist with the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey 1947-1953, where he investigated the ecology of elephant seals in the South Orkney Islands and South Georgia. These formed the subject of his 1953 Cambridge PhD research. Following this, he spent a season as a whaling inspector, before joining the National Institute of Oceanography (1954-61) where he studied whales.

After serving as Director of the Nuffield Unit of Tropical Animal Ecology in Uganda, and then as Director of the Tsavo Research Project, Kenya, Dick returned to British Antarctic Survey in 1969 as Head of the Life Sciences Division. He succeeded Sir Vivian Fuchs as BAS Director in 1973, a post he held until retirement in April 1987. Dick’s administrative and scientific acumen was instrumental in the growth of BAS as a centre of scientific excellence. He masterminded the re-location of BAS from numerous university-based units to the Cambridge Madingley Road site in the mid 1970s and was active in promoting and leading international scientific collaboration, particularly through the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).

Dr Laws was Director of the Sea Mammal Research Unit from 1977-1987 and Master of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, from 1985-1996.

On his retirement, a fund was established for a prize to be awarded in recognition of the achievements of outstanding young scientists of the Survey. The Laws Prize continues to be awarded annually, with the fund administered by the BAS Club.

His many accolades include the Bruce Memorial Medal for his work on the ecology of elephant seals and the Polar Medal awarded in 1976 (2nd clasp 2001). Dr Laws was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1980 and was a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

He is remembered with affection by his many friends and colleagues.

Our thoughts are with his family.

Autobiography of Richard Laws