Prof. Sir David Smith (1930–2018)

Professor Sir David Smith (1930–2018)

It is with sadness that we note the death of Professor Sir David Smith FRS FRSE FLS on 29th June 2018. Sir David was a former Editor-in-Chief (Executive Editor) and Trustee of New Phytologist.

David Smith joined the editorial board in 1965, and shortly afterwards became Executive Editor (Editor-in-Chief), a position he held for 17 years. After stepping down he maintained very strong links with the journal, continuing as an Editor and serving as a Trustee until the late 1990s.

David was born in south Wales, and went to school in Port Talbot, Bristol and London. He then went up to the University of Oxford where he graduated with an MA in Botany and subsequently with a DPhil. While at Queen’s College, he was tutored and mentored by New Phytologist Editor, Professor Jack Harley FRS.  Following a period of National Service he held research positions at Queen’s College Oxford and the University of California, Berkeley. He then returned to Oxford in 1960 to take up a lectureship in the Department of Agricultural Science, and subsequently became a Royal Society Research Fellow and a Tutorial Fellow at Wadham College, Oxford. Next he moved to Bristol to take up the Melville Wills Chair of Botany in 1974, and in 1980 he returned to Oxford as Sibthorpian Professor of Rural Economy and Head of the Department of Agricultural Science. He was appointed Principal of the University of Edinburgh in 1987, succeeding fellow New Phytologist Editor, Sir John Harrison Burnett. He returned to Oxford in 1994 when he was elected President of Wolfson College.

David’s research interests centred on symbioses, where he was especially interested in the symbiosis between algae and fungi found in lichens. However he also made important contributions to our understanding of mycorrhizal associations and the symbiotic relationship between algae and corals. His research achievements were significant and were recognised through his appointment as a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He received a knighthood in 1986, and in 1989 was awarded the Linnean Society’s Gold Medal for Botany. Subsequently, he served as President of the Linnean Society from 2000 to 2003.

While writing this appreciation of Sir David Smith, we consulted the New Phytologist archive and came across a recollection, recorded by David, some time after he had taken part in the first annual meeting of New Phytologist Editors.  In his own words, ‘I remember we had the first annual editor’s meeting in our little thatched cottage in Bicester in 1966 – Lesley [Sir David’s wife] cooked the meal for the four editors, and John Burnett brought along a fresh pineapple’. The annual editorial meeting has grown somewhat since 1966, but we strive to ensure that the spirit of friendship and collegiality that David and his fellow editors helped create endures.

We are very grateful to Sir David for his outstanding contribution to New Phytologist, and we offer our condolences to his family and friends.

Alistair Hetherington, Editor-in-Chief, New Phytologist
Sarah Lennon, Executive Editor, New Phytologist