Obituary: Professor Geoffrey Asprey

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The Independent Online
Geoffrey Asprey's botanical interests were wide-ranging. This was reflected in the breadth of his publications, which ranged from fundamental research in plant physiology, plant ultrastructure, plant ecology and studies on tropical rain forest ecosystems.

He was editor of the influential Journal of Ecology from 1969 to 1971 and was active in the affairs of the British Ecological Society. He was general editor (with J. Brady and AG Lyon) for the Commonwealth and International Library Publications - Botany Division. He maintained an interest in tropical ecosystems and also was deeply committed to the design and implementation of university courses in developing countries. He visited Chile on two occasions in the 1960s as a member of an Unesco commission, financed by the Ford Foundation; he was stationed at the University of Concepcion and helped organise the curriculum in biological sciences for the new Central Institute of Biology. While in South America he took the opportunity to visit Patagonia and carried out ecological research including sampling of lakes which had never been examined previously.

Asprey was Head of the Department of Botany at Cardiff University from 1955 until his retirement in 1973. He carried out his PhD research at Birmingham University (from which he was later awarded a DSc). Before coming to Cardiff, he taught at the universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen and then at the University College of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, where he was Professor of Botany. He took over the headship at Cardiff when the Department of Botany was housed in wooden buildings at the Newport Road site. Then followed a temporary move to St Andrew's Place for two years before the department moved into newly built accommodation in the south wing of Main College in 1961.

Asprey took personal charge of running many of the operations in the Department of Botany in a firm and decisive manner, but his attitude to staff and students was always friendly and approachable. His flair for administration served him well during his tenure as Dean of the Faculty of Science. He represented the college on many occasions, and served for example on the Court of Governors of the National Museum of Wales.

He was a Fellow of the Institute of Biology and served on its subcommittees for the teaching of Biology and Ecology. This lifelong interest in education and teaching led to his appointment, following his retirement from the Botany Department, as a consultant in the Department of Education in UCC. He tackled this job with typical energy for several years into his 'retirement'. One of his last formal contributions to the college was to write the entry for the Department of Plant Science for the College Centenary History volume.

Geoffrey Asprey was active in the local Catholic Church and served on the committee dealing with the re-organisation of Catholic schools in Cardiff. He was a keen gardener and also took up painting in his retirement.

Tragically his wife Eileen died in 1977 only a few years after his retiring. They have two children, both of whom are married: Anne (Champness), now living in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Alistair, who lives in Hong Kong, and four grandchildren. He visited his family regularly during his retirement.

Geoffrey Francis Asprey, botanist, born 7 January 1908, Head of the Department of Botany Cardiff University 1955-73, editor Journal of Ecology 1969-71, died Dinas Powis 1 October 1992.

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