Professor Gabriel Dover

Posted by ep256 at Apr 16, 2018 02:42 PM |
The University is sad to report the death of Professor Gabriel Dover, a retired member of the Department of Genetics.

Gabriel (Gabby) Dover, former HoD of Genetics in the 1990s died peacefully on Sunday 1st April after a short illness.

Gabby was a very complex and colourful character with an impressive intellect and an international reputation in evolutionary genetics. He was born in Manchester in 1937 into a Jewish family and had an extraordinary early life, including travelling to Palestine in 1938 and returning to the UK in the middle of the war in 1942. His first degree was in Hebrew and Aramaic (first class) from the University of London in 1960. He then became deeply politicised and returned to Israel to work on a kibbutz for 5 years. However the isolation of the kibbutz coupled to his increasing discomfort with the plight of the Palestinians led him to return to the UK and continue his education, this time in science, taking a first in Botany at the University of Leeds in 1969. He moved to Cambridge for his PhD in plant genetics where he was supervised by Sir Ralph Riley at the Plant Breeding Institute, before being appointed in 1972 as a Lecturer in Cambridge at the Department of Genetics. There, he supervised a stellar group of students who went on to become major figures in the field, always joking that his students thrived on his neglect! Gabby was best known for his controversial ideas about 'molecular drive', a term he used to describe a potential third force in evolution after Darwinian natural selection and neutral drift. Whether one believed this or not, he more than anyone underlined the importance in the evolutionary process of the dynamics of mutations in families of repetitive DNA sequences.

After Gabby took the Chair of Genetics in Leicester in 1991, he made a number of important strategic decisions and appointments, which enhanced the scientific reputation of the department culminating in its 5* rating in the 2001 RAE (now REF) exercise, the only department in the university and the only Genetics department in the UK to obtain the highest score. Gabby wrote the RAE document with his usual impeccable flair and wit, typically ignoring the dry template the university had tried to impose on him. He was always extremely supportive of his staff, loyal and very generous with his time, and those of us who were fortunate enough to get close to him will have warm memories of an uniquely interesting personality and a brilliant, eclectic man who, more than anything, was enormous fun to be around. He retired in 2002 and lived a quiet but busy life in Oxford, maintaining his academic contacts, writing and contributing to public awareness of evolution. In his later years, he suffered with poor health and, sadly, he succumbed to a chest infection over the Easter period. He leaves children, Merav, Noam and Alexis, and grandchildren Micha and Manya.

 

Wording provided by Professor Bambos Kyriacou from the Department of Genetics.

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