Obituary: Lord Zuckerman

Solly Zuckerman, anatomist and political adviser: born Cape Town 30 May 1904; Resident Anatomist, Zoological Society of London, and Demonstrator of Anatomy, University College London 1928- 32; Research Associate and Research Fellow, Yale University 1933-34; Beit Memorial Research Fellow, Oxford University 1934-37, University Demonstrator and Lecturer in Human Anatomy 1934- 45; Scientific Adviser, Combined Operations HQ 1939-46; Honorary Group Captain RAF 1943-46; FRS 1943; Sands Cox Professor of Anatomy, Birmingham University 1943-68 (Emeritus); CB 1946; Deputy Chairman, Advisory Council on Scientific Policy 1948-64; Chairman, Committee on Scientific Manpower 1950-64; Chairman, Natural Resources (Technical) Committee 1951- 64; Kt 1956; Chairman, Committee on Management and Control of Research and Development 1958-61; Chairman, Defence Research Policy Committee 1960-64; Chief Scientific Adviser to Secretary of State for Defence 1960-66, to HM Government 1964-71; KCB 1964; Chairman, Central Advisory Committee for Science and Technology 1965-70; Trustee, British Museum (Natural History) 1967-77; OM 1968; Professor at Large, University of East Anglia 1969-74 (Emeritus); created 1971 Baron Zuckerman; President, British Industrial Biological Research Association 1974-93, Fauna Preservation Society 1974-81, Zoological Society of London 1977-84; married 1939 Lady Joan Rufus Isaacs (one son, and one daughter deceased); died London 1 April 1993.

SOLLY ZUCKERMAN was a unique phenomenon, writes Lord Jenkins of Hillhead. Born in South Africa in relatively humble circumstances, he came to England in 1928 as a young doctor specialising in anatomy. Over the next 40 years, up to, say, his 1968 OM, he proceeded both to storm every bastion of British establishment life and so to broaden his intellectual base that he became almost universally accepted as the best man to explain any corner of science from the sex habits of monkeys to nuclear weaponry to innumerate classicists who had to make decisions on such grave matters.

But although he conquered the Establishment he never allowed it to conquer him. For another 25 years after that official peak in the late 1960s he maintained a critical iconoclasm, a 'radical chic' I suppose his detractors might call it, which made him the best-informed sceptic of nuclear nonsense and put him firmly on the liberal side on every issue of interest and controversy.

Above all, however, this last quarter-century of his life was remarkable as an example of how to enjoy old age. Until the last year or so, when he began to find that there were no new windows to open and that too many old ones were closing, his mixture of intellectual curiosity, social interest and civilised hedonism provided the best recipe for troisieme age satisfaction which I have ever encountered. In earlier days he could be a rough Whitehall warrior, although I always found him a very good ally. But in those later days, with ambition fulfilled and most passion spent, he became more generally benign, although happily never losing his intolerance of pomposity or stupidity.

Everything to do with Solly was of the highest quality, but had an element of paradox about it. His wife was a marquess's daughter, but provided him with a crucial element of domestic stability rather than an unnecessary fashionable entree. Only he could produce both Chateau Cheval Blanc 1961 and the Queen for a small country dinner party in his Norfolk house with his collection of early Sheffield plate upon the table and his conversational style which combined omniscient reminiscence with an optimist's interest in the future.

He was determinedly internationalist, a European who had many links with the United States, as much at home in Paris as in Washington. He was not much bounded by his origins. He showed flickers of interest in South Africa, but not a great deal more. And he was at most a cool Zionist. 'What have you ever done for Israel, Solly?' he was said once to have been asked. and to have replied: 'At least I have not changed my name.'

Solly Zuckerman's taste was sharp and astringent, 'Caviar for the general' (on the whole he liked generals in spite of his scepticism for conventional military wisdom), but once acquired it never palled. For me he leaves a very big gap.

(Photographs omitted)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little