Obituary: Professor Jack Rutter
17 January 2011
Professor Jack Rutter, former Head of the Department of Botany and Plant Technology, died on 1 November 2010, having spent nearly all his working years at Imperial. Professor Nigel Bell (Centre for Environmental Policy), who worked as his research assistant exactly 40 years ago, pays tribute to his friend and colleague.
“Jack was born in 1917 and joined the College as an undergraduate in Botany in 1935, graduating with first class Honours in 1938.He was one of the best known physiological plant ecologists of his day, renowned for his work on plant water relations and modelling water balance in forests.
He began a PhD investigating bluebell ecology under Professor Geoffrey Blackman in 1938, but due to wartime conditions this was not completed until 1944. During the war Jack researched the development of synthetic herbicides and improvement of oil-seed crops. He was appointed Assistant Lecturer in 1945, followed by promotions to Lecturer in 1946, Reader in 1956 and Professor of Botany in 1967. In 1970 he started the group at Silwood Park working on the effects of air pollution on plants, which continues to this day, together with research on motorway verge vegetation. From 1971 until his retirement in 1979, he was the popular Head of the Department of Botany and Plant Technology. Jack always enjoyed fieldwork and interacting with students with whom he had a deep empathy. His personal interests included gardening, bee-keeping and walking in the Scottish Western Isles. He will be remembered for not only being a brilliant scientist, but as an incredibly warm and humane person.
Jack’s wife, Betsy, died in 1978, but he is survived by his children, John, Margaret and Bill, together with six grandchildren and one great grandchild.”
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