Tribute to visionary ‘Jack’

Dr John Robert Lewis
Dr John Robert Lewis

Tributes have been paid to a marine ecologist who received global recognition for his work along Scarborough’s coastline.

Dr John Robert Lewis, know to all as Jack, died at Scarborough Hospital on October 9, at the age of 88 following a long illness.

A resident of Scalby, he was not only known locally for his position as governor of Scarborough Boys High School and member of the Scalby Village Trust, but also on a world wide scale due to his achievements in science, with much of his career spent running a marine laboratory in Robin Hood’s Bay.

Dr Lewis started his studies in science after being discharged from the Fleet Air Arm in the Second World War due to contracting TB. He enrolled onto a zoology course at the University College of Wales, where he met his wife to be Betty.

After graduating in 1949 he embarked on research, travelling around the coast of Britain with Betty in a converted ambulance gaining his PhD in 1952.

After a two-year postdoctoral fellowship, Dr Lewis moved to Leeds University, rising from assistant lecturer and lecturer in zoology to senior lecturer.

In 1965 he was appointed Senior Lecturer-in-charge of the University of Leeds’ start-up Wellcome Marine Laboratory in Robin Hood’s Bay, becoming director in 1972 when it became independent from the dept.

There he continued to run graduate programmes and research projects. The recognition he gained for this led to other roles, such as visiting professor in a wide range of international universities, the chairmanship of the European COST-47 programme, and was an expert witness at the Amoco Cadiz trials. The University of Wales awarded him a DSc in recognition of his achievements in the 1970’s and in 1999 he was awarded Honorary Membership of the Ecological Society of America.

A father of two, and a grandfather of three, Dr Lewis was described by his son David as “very gregarious, outgoing and friendly.” He added: “Throughout his life he was a dedicated teacher, and very concerned about helping the younger generation into the industry of science.” His funeral is today at Woodlands Crematorium.