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)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there