PLANTS, SOLANACEAE AND SOLANUM SPECIES: THE LIFELONG PASSIONS OF RICHARD NEVILLE LESTER (13 JUNE 1937 - 4 APRIL 2006)
Richard Neville Lester passed away in Birmingham (UK) on 4 April 2006 from cancer diagnosed in the summer of 2001, less than one year after his complete retirement from the University of Birmingham. He struggled courageously against the cancer together with his wife Celia and his children John and Clare. Co-organizer with J.G. Hawkes and A.D. Skelding of the first International Solanaceae Conference held in Birmingham (UK) in 1976, he contributed to all subsequent conferences, held in 1982 in St Louis (USA), 1988 in Bogota (Columbia), 1994 in Adelaide (Australia) and 2000 in Nijmegen (the Netherlands). Destiny did not allow him to participate in this sixth conference. He leaves behind him a prolific scientific career with some 135 papers (see list of publications below), a tuber-bearing species that bears his name, Solanum lesteri J.G. Hawkes & Hjerting, and many former students to whose education he contributed at the University of Birmingham, who are now leading scientists around the world. The impressive number of greeting cards received at his home after he died, which came from so many countries and which carried so kind and concerned messages, are a beautiful homage to the scientist and the man he was. Richards passion for living things began early in his life. His daily contact with nature while growing up with his family in the English countryside helped foster a sensitivity to the natural world and plants in particular. His keen interest in plants first crystallized around the Cactaceae, no doubt because of the cactus plants his mother had given him when he was aged 13, shortly before her accidental and stressful death. This emotional linkage between plants and love would leave a deep stamp on his entire life.
Daunay, M.-C. and van der Weerden, G.M. (2007). PLANTS, SOLANACEAE AND SOLANUM SPECIES: THE LIFELONG PASSIONS OF RICHARD NEVILLE LESTER (13 JUNE 1937 - 4 APRIL 2006). Acta Hortic. 745, 539-550
Solanaceae, Solanum, Birmingham seed collection, immunotaxonomy, eggplants