Just a quick post to announce the death of Professor Brian G. Gardiner (1934-2021), communicated to me just now by his son Nick.
Brian was a specialist in the evolution of fishes. He was the last surviving member of the so-called ‘Gang of Four’ that shook up the staid world of biological taxonomy in the 1980s, with their espousal of Hennig’s then-revolutionary phylogenetic systematics, or cladistics.
The others were his close colleague Colin Patterson, his student Peter Forey, and their American colleague Donn Rosen, and loosely associated with others in the Natural History Museum such as Dick Jefferies.
I met Brian when, as an undergraduate, I spent the summer of 1983 in the Fossil Fish Section at the Natural History Museum, working under Forey and Patterson. I narrowly escaped doing a Ph.D. with Brian. Had I done so I might have succumbed to alcohol poisoning, such was the formidable line-up of empties that Gardiner, Forey and Patterson used to line up each lunchtime at the Cranley Arms in the Old Brompton Road (don’t look for it — it’s not there any more, but I evoked it, I hope, in my book Deep Time).
With his gentle manner and west-country burr, Brian was always very kind to me, and as happy talking about his mother’s recipe for lamprey pie as the minutiae of cladistics, or his avocation — trying to find the culprit of the Piltdown Man hoax.
I think it’s fair to say we shall not see his like again.