David Lewis, an eminent botanist and pro-vice chancellor at the University of Sheffield, has passed away at the age of 85. His primary scientific domain was examining the relationship between mycorrhizal fungi and their plant counterparts. In addition to his research, he also served as the editor of New Phytologist from 1970 to 1983 and as its executive editor from 1983 to 1995. Under his editorship, the journal rose to greater international prominence. He was a frequent contributor himself to the journal and even had a published article just two years prior to his death.
David’s passion for botany began in his youth, growing up with his parents in Neath, South Wales, where they owned and operated a tobacconist. His fascination with plants was further nurtured when he was sent to Colston’s School, in Bristol, at age nine. After completing his required national service in the Royal Air Force, he commenced his studies in botany at Oxford’s Queen’s College.
David landed a lectureship with the botany faculty at Sheffield in 1966. He quickly rose in rank, attaining a personal chair in 1983 and becoming the head of the department in 1987. During the 1980s, when Thatcher’s reforms shook up higher education, David led the successful merger of the zoology and botany departments at Sheffield to create the new Department of Animal and Plant Sciences. The newly formed department flourished under his stewardship and gained recognition as one of the country’s most prestigious.
In 1995, David was promoted to pro-vice chancellor for research at Sheffield, a title that came with its own set of challenges. Unfortunately, one of the first tasks he had to oversee was the implementation of car-parking fees at the university. This was a decision he had previously opposed. After serving in the position for four years, he returned to his academic pursuits at the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences before retiring in 2002.
David was not only active within academia but was also a trustee of the Sheffield Botanical Gardens Trust. He was instrumental in securing a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 1996 to rejuvenate the gardens. David is survived by his wife, Diana, along with two children from his first marriage.