In Memory of Absent Friends

Professor Robert James (Sam) Berry (1934 – 2018)

Dr Tim Healing

It is with great sadness that we report the death of Professor Sam Berry.

Sam was Professor of Genetics at the University of London from 1974 until his retirement in 2000 (and subsequently Emeritus Professor). He was, at various times, a member of the councils of the Zoological Society of London, the Mammal Society, The British Ecological  Society, the Linnaean Society and the European Ecological Federation. He also served on the Natural Environment Research Council.

The focus of much of his research was the genetic isolation of island populations and, in the early 1960s, he began a study of the house mice on Skokholm, with follow-up work on the Faroes, St Kilda and the Outer Hebrides.

His studies on Skokholm showed that significant changes had occurred in the genetics of the mice since the 1890s when a few animals were inadvertently introduced. This demonstrated that adaptive genetic changes can occur rapidly (in evolutionary terms) where appropriate evolutionary pressures exist.

Subsequently he undertook similar research on other island populations including Macquarie Island, Hawaii and Enewetak Atoll in the Pacific.

In the 1980s he played a key role in the development of biological recording in the UK, particularly through his chairmanship of a small Linnaean Society working party which produced the report “Biological Survey, Need and Network” (1988).

Amongst his many published works four show his particular love and deep knowledge of islands. He was the author or co-author of no less than four of the Collins New Naturalist series (Inheritance and Natural History (1977), The Natural History of Shetland (1980), the Natural History of Orkney (1985) and Islands (2009)).

He was a deeply committed Christian, a member of the Church of England General Synod for 20 years, and the author and editor of several works of natural theology.

He frequently attended reunions of the Friends of Skokholm and Skomer and was a strong supporter of the activities of the Friends.