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Tribute to Christopher Barry Cox, Emeritus Professor of Zoology

Francis Cox D.Sc

Emeritus Professor of Parasite Immunology, King’s College London

20 July 2023

Professor Christopher Barry Cox, who joined King's in 1956 and remained there for most of his career, sadly died earlier this year. Professor Francis Cox reflects on his life.

Barry Cox

Christopher Barry Cox (known as Barry), Emeritus Professor of Zoology at King’s College, died on January 24th 2023. Barry joined the Zoology Department at King’s College London in 1956 and remained there for the whole of his working life becoming Professor and Head of the Department from 1982-1985. For much of this time, Barry was the only vertebrate zoologist on the staff.

In the 1960s, geologists formulated the concept of plate tectonics as the driving force behind continental drift. Barry, whose research was concerned with mammal-like reptiles and their geographical distribution, was one of the first zoologists to grasp the significance of plate tectonics in the context on the distribution of the world’s faunas. In 1966, Ian Healey, a young ecologist, joined the department and he, Barry and Peter Moore, a King’s plant ecologist, realised that biogeography, the study of the distribution of living organisms in space and time, was a largely ignored subject in biology courses in universities so decided to write a text book on the subject. The resulting book, Biogeography. An Ecological and Evolutionary Approach, was published in 1973. Biogeography was remarkably successful and reached its tenth edition in 2020. Sadly, Ian died in 1972 so never saw its publication.

The Zoology teaching material in the Strand site was kept, somewhat haphazardly and poorly labelled, in a row of dusty corridor cupboards and Barry was the only person who knew anything about, or had any use for most of it. He was responsible for acquiring and, if necessary, preparing valuable specimens for the collection. Following the merger between King’s, Queen Elizabeth College, and Chelsea College in 1985, there was the danger that the collection might be lost. Barry was instrumental in ensuring that the most important vertebrate specimens were kept, identified, and correctly labelled and they now form a significant part of the Museum of Life Sciences on the Guy’s Campus.

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