Professor Brian G. Gardiner PPLS (1932–2021): Founding Editor of 'The Linnean'

Fellow, Past President and Founding Editor of 'The Linnean'

Prof Brian G. Gardiner PPLS as President

Brian during his years as the Society's President (1994–97), wearing the 'tricorn hat'. (Image: Nicholas Gardiner)

Professor Brian G. Gardiner’s was admitted as a Fellow to the Linnean Society in June 1968, and in 1971 became a member of the Society’s Council. In 1974, botanist Professor Irene Manton PPLS became the Society’s first female President, and Brian was asked to become Zoological Secretary, a role which he oversaw until 1980. Brian himself said that Irene encouraged him to put together a newsletter to keep the Fellowship informed, which he did, until 1981.

It was soon resolved that a more substantial newsletter was needed; in 1983 the matter was agreed upon by Council, and in early 1984 the first issue of The Linnean appeared, with Brian as Editor. The first issue included an article on the admission of the first women Fellows. Brian would oversee the Editorship of The Linnean (with the assistance of Dr Mary Morris FLS) until 2013.

During this time, Brian was also elected as President of the Linnean Society (1994–97). He continued the tradition of wearing ‘the Society’s tricorn hat’ when admitting new Fellows (reintroduced by botanist William Stearn)—something that perhaps paints a picture of his humour and fondness for the Society and Fellowship.

Fish Evolution, Cladistics and the Piltdown Man

Brian G Gardiner PPLS

Brian was part of the 'Gang of Four', whose work in cladistics caused a stir within taxonomy. (Image: Chris and Marilyn Humphries)

Brian’s academic career began at Queen Elizabeth College (which later merged with King’s College London), where he would go on to become Professor of Palaeontology. He was interested in the anatomy, taxonomy and evolution of fishes, particularly actinopterygians (ray-finned fishes). Two fossil fish genera are named for him: Gardinerichthys and Gardinerpiscis, both from the Permian period.

Brian made an impact on many areas of taxonomy, from describing seven new genera and species of palaeoniscids (early ray-finned fishes that flourished from the Silurian to the late Cretaceous), to his vocal and unstinting support of phylogenetic systematics (cladistics). Brian, along with other colleagues known as the ‘Gang of Four’ (Peter Forey, Colin Patterson and Donn Rosen), was instrumental in bringing cladistics to a wider audience with the now infamous salmon-lungfish-cow correspondence in the pages of Nature, which began in 1978 and continued for nearly three years, through until late 1981. Brian also investigated the perpetrators of the infamous Piltdown Man hoax of 1912 (thought to be ‘the missing link’).

Explore the following links for a full tribute to Brian, a bibliography of his work and an issue of the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society outlining some of his papers.