Obituary: Bryn M. Jones

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BRYN M. Jones was a leading biologist, an accomplished artist, and a man of charm and warm humanity. It was these qualities he brought to the then University College of Wales, Aberystwyth ("Aber") when appointed to lead the Department of Zoology in 1961. His vision and enthusiasm matched the spirit of the now long-lost, post-Robbins age of the 1960s and 1970s. He glimpsed enough of the more troubled days following the first draconian financial cuts in 1981 to retire, he recently reflected, a little late.

His younger days at Edinburgh University convinced him that a relaxed, tolerant and considerate approach to students would maximise their success. Thus, he relished the opportunity in "Aber" to transform the rather staid department from its focus on traditional natural history with a few selected Honours students, into a large multi-discipline, vibrant centre with 40 or more third-year students and a well-balanced range of modern courses.

Jones instituted tutorials and an "open door" availability of staff to students. He encouraged get- togethers at his favourite Gregynog University Study Centre, in the Department and, with his wife Irwen, at his Plas Gwyn home. Students were always to be treated with respect and Bryn was especially sympathetic to their crises during examinations.

He was born in Breconshire in 1916 and was educated in Merthyr County School where initially he studied the humanities and fine art in the sixth form before switching to science and taking a Zoology degree from Cardiff in 1939. His outstanding skill at that time as a rugby union centre, captaining Welsh Schools and the British Universities teams, was never fully developed because of the Second World War.

The war took him initially to a reserve occupation making explosives at the Drigg Government Mills in Cumberland, then to the Royal Naval Medical Branch as a Lieutenant. Following specialist training in entomology at Cambridge, Jones went off to India and Ceylon to fight mosquitos (malaria) and harvest mites (scrub typhus).

He was demobbed to the Anti- Locust Centre in London but his days at Cambridge had whetted his appetite for academe and he took a 25 per cent pay cut to secure a lectureship in Edinburgh. He became a leading figure in entomology and gained his DSc in only four years. In the late 1950s, from his studies on the tanning of lipoprotein membranes in insect moulting and under the influence of Michael Swann (later BBC Chairman) and Peter Mitchell (Nobel Laureate), he recognised the growing importance of cell biology.

In Aber, he rapidly made significant contributions to the study of the role of cell adhesion and movement in vertebrate development. By the 1970s, using novel immunological techniques, his group was making pioneering discoveries on the interaction of the cytoskeleton with the plasma membrane in cell adhesion, a field that is ever expanding to this day.

A talented artist, Jones was influenced by the modern movement of the 1930s and his work was sufficiently large and varied to justify a post- retirement exhibition in the University Gallery. The East was one influence, from his first vivid watercolours of Singhalese fellow seamen from his Navy days, to spiky drawings of the Madras seafront in the 1980s. In between were other "periods", especially a persistent "microscopist-abstractionist" phase of migrating and adhering cells transformed into abstract patterns, which would then decorate the corridors of the department and whose inspiration he would explain with characteristic hand waves.

Bryn Mor Jones, cell biologist: born Cefn-coed-y-cymmer, Breconshire 6 November 1916; Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in Zoology, Edinburgh University 1947-61; Professor and Head of the Department of Zoology, University College of Wales, Aberystwyth 1961-83; married 1942 Irwen Rowlands (two sons); died Penrhyncoch, Aberystwyth 16 January 1999.