25 June 2010

Richard Darwin Keynes (1919-2010)

Richard Darwin Keynes (1919–2010)
Photo: R.D. Siegel
It was with great sadness that the Beagle Project learned of the death on 12th June 2010 of Richard Darwin Keynes, age 90.

Richard was the great-grandson of Charles Darwin. A Fellow of the Royal Society since 1959, and a former Professor of Physiology at Cambridge University, he edited a number of Darwin's writings, including The Beagle Record, Charles Darwin's Beagle Diary, Charles Darwin's Zoology Notes and Specimen Lists from HMS Beagle, and Fossils, Finches and Fuegians: Charles Darwin's Adventures and Discoveries on the Beagle, 1832–1836. He also co-edited Lydia and Maynard: Letters Between Lydia Lopokova and John Maynard Keynes.

Keynes was born on 14th August 1919, the eldest son of Sir Geoffrey Keynes, MD, FRCP, FRCS, FRCOG, and Margaret Elizabeth, daughter of Sir George Darwin, KCB. He was educated at Oundle School and Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1945 he married Anne Pinsent Adrian, eldest daughter of 1st Baron Adrian, OM, FRS, and Dame Hester Agnes Adrian, DBE, only daughter of Hume C. and Dame Ellen Pinsent, DBE; they had four sons, Adrian (1946–1974), Randal (b. 1948), Roger (b. 1951) and Simon (b. 1952). Both Randal and Simon have been great friends and supporters of the Beagle Project, so our condolences extend especially to them.

During the Second World War, Keynes served as a temporary experimental officer at the Anti-Submarine Establishment and Admiralty Signals Establishment (1940–45), returning to Cambridge after the war to complete his degree. He remained at Trinity College as a Research Fellow between 1948 and 1952, winning the Gedge Prize in 1948 and the Rolleston Memorial Prize in 1950. His career at Cambridge included: demonstrator in Physiology (1949–53); Lecturer (1953–60); Fellow of Peterhouse College (1952–60, and an Honorary Fellow, 1989); Head of the Physiology Department, and first Deputy Director (1960–64), then Director (1965–73); Director of the ARC Institute of Animal Physiology (1965–72); Professor of Physiology (1973–87); Fellow of Churchill College.

Outside Cambridge, Keynes's positions included: Secretary-General of the International Union for Pure and Applied Biophysics (1972–78), then Vice-President (1978–81) and President (1981–84); chairman of the International Cell Research Organisation (1981–83) and the ICSU/Unesco International Biosciences Networks (1982–93); President of the European Federation of Physiological Societies (1991); a Vice-President of the Royal Society (1965–68); Croonian Lecturer (1983); Fellow of Eton College (1963–78); foreign member of the Royal Danish Academy (1971), American Philosophical Society (1977), American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1978) and the American Physiological Society (1994).

The Beagle Project's Dr Karen James writes:
As you can see from Keynes' long list of accomplishments, he was an accomplished and influential scientist in his own right. His high quality scholarship on his famous forebear therefore only adds to an already impressive scientific resume.

And yet it is this careful and dedicated scholarship that made him so dear to the Beagle Project. I have very fond memories of the day in 2008 that co-director Peter McGrath and I were fortunate enough to meet Richard Darwin Keynes at his home in Cambridge.

The first thing to notice on entering Keynes' study was the sheer number of original Darwin artifacts hanging on the walls, crammed onto bookshelves, piled up on the ample desktop. I can't speak for Peter but it took me a great deal of concentration to stop my eyes rudely wandering around the room... to the original Conrad Martens watercolours... to the several first editions of Origin, to...

But that only lasted for a minute, because Keynes' himself was obviously by far the most engaging thing in the room. Despite his age (then 88), he was talkative and vibrant, and still intensely interested in Charles Darwin - particularly his voyage on the Beagle.

We were honoured to have met him and even more honored to have had his support in our humble endeavour to rebuild the little ship that carried his great-grandfather to great-ness.


Karen James said...

The Telegraph's obituary here.

Anonymous said...

As a sad coincidence, the same day passed away in Paris the outstanding ethnologist Anne Chapman, only a few weeks after publishing her long-awaited book entitled 'European Encounters with the Yamana People of Cape Horn, Before and After Darwin' (New York, Cambridge University Press, 2010). Her burial took place at Cimetière du Père-Lachaise (cf. Wikipedia and Find a Grave).

Further info on the book at the website of Cambridge University Press (recommended).