Dr Derek Ratcliffe

 
Dr Derek Ratcliffe studies the Peregrine Falcon
One of our most outstanding ecologists and nature conservationists died on 23 May 2005.  Derek was Deputy Director (Science) of the Nature Conservancy (from 1973, the Nature Conservancy Council -NCC), becoming the Chief Scientist until 1989.
 
Derek had an international reputation in ornithology and botany (bryophytes, ferns, vegetation), and was one of the outstanding field naturalists of modern times. 
 
Derek made a seminal contribution to nature conservation in the 1970s and 1980s, setting the scene in GB for the subsequent two decades.  He led the writing for the key NCC publications underpinning nature conservation within the Government sector, notably Nature Conservation in Great Britain (1984) and Guidelines for selection of biological SSSIs (1989). 
 
He produced nine books, including:
 
Plant Communities of the Scottish Highlands (1962, with Donald McVean); A Nature Conservation Review (1977, edited; 2 volumes);  The Peregrine Falcon (1980, 1993 expanded second edition);  Birds of Mountain and Upland (1990);  The Raven (1997);  In Search of Nature (2000);  and Lakeland (2002).
 
Lapland-a natural history (in press) is an account of Derek's annual expeditions to the far north, with his wife Jeannette, to be published next month.
 
Dr Malcolm Vincent, JNCC Director of Science, commented:
 
"In the 1970s and 80s, Derek developed the philosophy for nature conservation in Great Britain at a time of huge economic pressures on the rural environment.  His intellectual contribution to the selection and conservation of protected areas was immense, and inspired the nature conservation movement.  It remains at the heart of nature conservation in the United Kingdom today, a living memorial to his life's work".
 
Ian McLean, Head of Species Advice at JNCC, said:
 
"Derek Ratcliffe was an inspiring person to work for because of his exceptional knowledge and understanding of the natural world, coupled with his steadfast support and encouragement when things got tough. His outstanding qualities as a naturalist were matched by his rigour as a scientist, and his ability to convey in writing the thrill of remote places with their beauty and rich wildlife. His legacy of books and photographs of the natural world, major conservation texts, colleagues he taught and stimulated, and most of all the heritage of nature he fought for and bequeaths to us to sustain, is quite unparalleled."
 
Professor Des Thompson, Chairman of the Uplands Lead Co-ordination Network of JNCC, and Principal Uplands Adviser in Scottish Natural Heritage, commented:
 
 "Derek Ratcliffe had a masterful knowledge of nature in northern Europe, and set in place the philosophy and guidance underpinning nature conservation in Great Britain.  His book on the peregrine falcon is regarded as a masterpiece.  He leaves behind an exceptional literature, and friends and colleagues who were inspired by his knowledge, integrity and modesty."
 
Dr Keith Duff, Chief Scientist, English Nature, said:
 
"Derek Ratcliffe stands out as one of the most authoritative and knowledgeable naturalists of his generation. His commitment to the protection of our natural heritage was legendary and his most important legacy will be the series of National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest set up under his guidance when Chief Scientist of the Nature Conservancy Council. Due to the depth of knowledge and eloquence he brought to them, his books on nature conservation will be an enduring inspiration."
 
Derek Almey Ratcliffe was born in London on 9 July 1929.