Nick February 3rd, 2021

Mike made more interesting discoveries in biology than just about anyone else I can think of. I count myself lucky to have known him while I was a PhD student at Sussex in the mid-1970s. He was kind to me and I have good memories of trips to pubs, innumerable lunches and playing music at his house. He would call me into his office and show me his latest discoveries. I recall an eye with 3 parabolic lenses (I still have a photo he gave me) looking for all the world like an expensive Leica – he told me it was a modified nose. And there was another beast with I think just one photoreceptor which was scanned back and forth. At that time I think he also discovered the box-faceted eyes of crabs and lobsters that have since served as an inspiration for the design of X-ray telescopes. Had Darwin and Mike lived at the same time I suspect Darwin would have paid a lot of attention to Mike’s work, no doubt via a gentlemanly exchange of letters. And perhaps he would have been a bit less puzzled by the human eye, considering the extraordinary variety of designs unearthed by Mike in other animals. Mike also belonged to that same British tradition of using simple methods combined with astute powers of observation and deduction. We could do with a bit more of that in these days when data is mined often without any clear idea of what to do with it. In person, Mike reminded me a bit of a hobbit (I hope no one minds me saying this). I swear he had curly hair on his feet. It seemed to me that he had the same virtues as hobbits – good plain common sense, enjoyment of simple pleasures, a dislike of pretentiousness, a bit of stubbornness but not too much, perseverance and all those English virtues celebrated by Tolkien. It is too bad that he is no longer with us.