Glyn Humphreys (1973 Leaver) In Memoriam
Old Crosbeian, Glyn Humphreys, distinguished neuropsychologist and Head of the Department of Psychology at Oxford University died suddenly in January this year, just weeks after celebrating his 61st birthday. A world expert in visual cognition, Glyn’s life’s work has had a major impact not only on our understanding of perception and cognition but also on the rehabilitation of stroke patients. He received many accolades for his ground-breaking research, including the Spearman medal in 1986 and a lifetime achievement award last year from the British Psychology Society as well as election to the fellowship of the British Academy in 2009.
I first met Glyn in 1966 when we both became pupils at Merchant Taylors’. My name came immediately after his in the alphabetical class list and the school being very traditional in those days, this meant that we sat next to each other pretty much every day for the next seven years. Although this seating arrangement was initially enforced, we soon became friends – and not only did we share most of our lessons and take the same bus (the Ribble number 381) home each afternoon, we also played in the school rugby team together.
Glyn was an early developer and had probably already reached 6ft by the time we entered the 4th form. Not surprisingly, he played prop forward but he was also fleet of foot and I always found myself finishing in his wake when we ran the 400 meters (or more accurately, the 440 yards) together for the school athletics team. Despite his athletic prowess and impressive frame, Glyn’s compassionate personality shone through and was respected by all of us: he often acted as peacemaker between his more bellicose class mates – even the toughest of them would back down when Glyn stepped in!
In our later teenage years, we became aspiring rock stars for a while and played in “progressive rock” concerts at local church halls in Waterloo. But then we became more studious and focused on our Maths, Physics and Chemistry A level courses. At the beginning of our final year I well remember discussing University course choices in class. I told Glyn of my plans to read Maths and Psychology and he said that sounded interesting and asked me to tell him more. As it turned out, it was Glyn who went on to study Psychology, at Bristol University, whilst I eventually read Genetics at Cambridge.
Having lost touch on leaving school it was a great pleasure to renew our acquaintance only a couple of years ago through a mutual colleague. Last summer Glyn joined my wife and me for dinner at our home in Singapore and we spent a happy evening reminiscing about our teenage years with another old Crosbeian, John Hallam, who by chance was also visiting.
Over dinner, Glyn and I discussed plans for a Symposium focusing on the genetics of mental illness: this went ahead in February at the Institute of Mental Health here in Singapore, sadly without Glyn; but its success was a testimony to Glyn’s influence at Oxford, with several of his colleagues speaking at what was a very successful and stimulating meeting.
Glyn was a warm and generous man, someone whose kindness and friendship had stayed fresh in my memory for the best part of half a century. He will be greatly missed but he has made all of our lives the better for knowing him.
Philip Ingham FRS, Toh Kian Chui Distinguished Professor, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
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