Obituary: Christopher John Mead (1940-2003)

Published on 01 April 2003 in Obituaries

Very sadly, news arrived on 16th January 2003 that Chris Mead had died, peacefully in his sleep, concluding a remarkably full life. The UK has consequently lost a modern-day ornithological giant, one of its most powerful communicators of bird research findings to the media, an authority on bird migration, a lifelong supporter of British Birds and a good friend to many. The news came as a great shock, even to close acquaintances aware of his deteriorating health (the legacy of a severe stroke in 1994 and ongoing diabetes ­ problems of which he made light), because the `big man’ carried an air of immortality, and had a busy lifestyle which one dared not question. Chris’s skills as an innovator, researcher, organiser and, most particularly, interpreter of bird study findings will be sorely missed in Britain, most especially in the four counties he frequented: Sussex, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Norfolk. Born on May Day 1940 at Hove, Sussex, son of a master grocer, it was from his parents’ home that elements of the fledgling Sussex Ornithological Society were founded, as his own early birdwatching promise blossomed. Typically, Chris’s education was unconventional. From Aldenham school, Hertfordshire, where again he showed flair, he went up to Peterhouse, Cambridge, to read mathematics. Here he found his twin passions, ringing birds by day and enjoying jazz after dark, too tempting. He `graduated’ with a sound appreciation of Duke Ellington and, most importantly, a permit to ring birds ­ the latter a passport for a distinguished career

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