Obituary: Dr Eric Reeve FRSE, 98

Dr Eric Reeve FRSE, a research scientist and editor, has died, aged 98.

Eric Cyril Raynold Reeve was born in 1913 in Liverpool, the son of a former Church of England missionary to Japan and a vicar’s daughter, and the second of four brothers.

The family lived in several towns in England as his father changed parishes, including Great Yarmouth, Hockering and Lowestoft.

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At the prep school in Lowestoft, Eric became a close friend of Benjamin Britten, who was head boy there. Later he boarded at Norwich Grammar School in Cathedral Close. At the end of his school days, he entered what was then St Peter’s Hall, Oxford, to study mathematics.

He went on to study zoology at Oxford.

He then moved to the statistical department of Rothampstead Experimental Station to join a large team of statisticians, mathematicians and agronomists who were applying new methods of analysis to the yield of different crops on farms throughout England. This was published as a guide to fertiliser policy in war time.

When the war in Europe was over, Dr Reeve went as liaison officer to participate in the large American effort to assess different consequences and effectiveness of bombing raids on Germany.

During this period he met and married Edith Simon, a brilliant young author and talented artist, who later developed the original technique of scalpel-painting, often displayed in Edinburgh Festival exhibitions.

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He considered his meeting with Edith the most important event of his life.

He returned to scientific study when he became part of the National Animal Breeding and Genetics Research Organisation, as it was first known, based in the Institute of Animal Genetics at King’s Buildings, Edinburgh.

Since housing was scarce and expensive the group hired a large mansion, Mortonhall House, to house scientific staff and their families. Although it solved the immediate housing problem, communal living had its drawbacks and, in due course, families moved out to their own accommodation, including Eric and Edith, but not until after the arrival of their daughter Antonia.

They moved first to Rosebery Crescent during which time Simon and Jessica were added to the family, followed, some decade later, by a move to Grosvenor Crescent, where they spent the rest of their lives.

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Dr Reeve went on to edit a new genetics journal, Genetical Research for 36 years. He was elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1975.

Towards the end of his career Dr Reeve was invited to organise and edit the Encyclopaedia of Genetics, a volume of some 900 pages.

Those who knew him best remembered Dr Reeve as “a person of high principle in the conduct of human affairs”.

He enjoyed the company of friends and was a keen tennis player. He is survived by Antonia, Simon and Jessica.