Professor Glyn Humphreys 1954-2016

Watts Professor of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, and Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford.

Glyn Humphreys died suddenly on 14 January 2016 while in Hong Kong as Distinguished Visiting Professor. Glyn was at the peak of a career which began in 1973, when a shy young man from Liverpool was admitted to the University of Bristol to read Psychology. He rose quietly and modestly to take a first class degree. It was these understated qualities, combined with a strong work ethic and a sharp mind, which ultimately led Glyn Humphreys to the top of his discipline.  

From his early years as Lecturer at Birkbeck to his final years as Chair at Oxford, Glyn made outstanding contributions to psychological science. His monumental acievements are very familiar to members of the Society, having been recognised by its major awards: The Spearman Medal (1986), The President’s Award (1999) and The Life-time Achievement Award (2015). His influence on the discipline of psychology was immense: as Head of Department first at Birmingham and then at Oxford, as President of scientific societies, Editor of leading journals and member of major research boards and committees, not least as Chair of the Psychology, Neuroscience and Psychiatry panel for the Recognition of Excellence Framework (REF 2014). He became Fellow of The British Academy in 2009. 

More than this, Glyn was an outstanding leader, a wise and effective mentor, and a terrific supporter of others. Hundreds of others. The stories told on his memorial page are powerful, painting a picture of a very human and gentle person, a man who was both driven and selfless, somehow finding time for everyone else. From his scientific publications we learned much about cognition from the patients he studied, known only by their initials. From the memorial stories, we learn of the friendship and humanity behind the initials and behind the science: the Christmas parties, the trips overseas, the weddings and birthdays, the children, music, food and laughter. Glyn and his wife and collaborator Jane Riddoch created an environment where people thrived.  This is at the heart of Glyn’s legacy – a legacy in basic science and its clinical application that will continue to thrive via the work of the Oxford Cognitive Neuropsychology Centre and the huge numbers of people across the world he trained and inspired.

At the University of Oxford where he spent the last four years of his life, Glyn was a transformative Head of Department where, with characteristic hard work and wisdom, he led it to great success, always remaining undaunted by set-backs and obstacles and without ever making a fuss.  He was also a Fellow of Wolfson College, where he was a much-admired and much-liked member of the community. He loved music, swimming, and wining and dining with friends and family.  What made him special was his kind nature and a remarkable ability to believe in and enable others. Glyn, a giant of psychology, leaves behind his widow Jane, his daughter, Katie, his sons Iain and Alec and his grandchildren, Madeline, Jake and Freddie.

Kate Nation and Maggie Snowling 

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber