LOCKE, Michael of London


Michael Locke, MA, PhD, ScD, FRSC,
Professor Emeritus, 
Department of Biology,
University of Western Ontario 

It is with profound sadness that the family announces Michael’s death on October 20, 2013 in London, Ontario. He was born in Nottingham, U.K. to Robert and Kathleen Locke, on February 14, 1929. He is predeceased by his parents and only brother, Peter. Michael went to Drayton Manor Grammar School, Ealing, London, from where he obtained a State Scholarship to Cambridge University. After National Service in the RAF (Number 3 Medical Parachute team) he gained a Double First in Natural Sciences and a Scholarship to St John’s College, followed by a Ph.D. under Sir Vincent Wigglesworth and an Sc.D. from Cambridge for his work as an Insect Biologist. Wigglesworth believed in doing his own research rather than supervising students to do work for him. This became a guiding principle for Locke. After graduating in 1956 he chose adventure over security and went to the University of the West Indies in Jamaica for his first academic appointment. The Caribbean was his “Voyage of the Beagle”, a tropical experience that he would never forget. In particular it introduced him to Calpodes ethlius as an experimental insect. The caterpillars of this butterfly are large, about the size of a little finger, with a completely transparent skin so that all their internal working organs can be seen from the outside, making delicate operations much easier. For example, he showed by removing the corpus allatum that it controlled wax secretion. His advice to students about to start research was “Go to the animal. Let the animal or the experimental system be your guide rather than other peoples past hypotheses”. To illustrate this, he showed that although drawings in all the textbooks for some 300 years had insects gaining their oxygen directly through branching tracheal and tracheole tubes, a glance at any caterpillar revealed a tracheal lung, easily confirmed in Calpodes.
In 1961 Howard Schneiderman invited him to be a founding member of the Developmental Biology Center, in Cleveland, Ohio, where he stayed for 10 years before becoming a proud Canadian, Zoology Department Chairman and eventually Emeritus Professor at the University of Western Ontario, now Western, in London.
In spite of time spent as Chairman, his 40 years at Western were most productive in research. Like his mentor Wigglesworth he used the blood sucking bug Rhodnius prolixus as an experimental animal as well as Calpodes. He showed by skin grafting experiments that the pattern in Rhodnius body and appendages is determined by segmentally repeating gradients, an extension of his finding of the polarized control of growth in tracheal epidermis. His work, recorded in some 200 papers and 20 books, is best described as the cell biology of Insect epidermal and fat body cells. He was particularly pleased to show how membranes formed isolation envelopes segregating organelles scheduled for destruction in lytic environments away from the rest of the cell. His work was recognized by the Canada Council by a Killam Fellowship, by the University of Western Ontario through the Hellmuth prize, in 2001 by the award of the Wigglesworth Medal and Lectureship, Honorary Fellowships in the Royal Society of Entomology and the American Society of Entomology, and the Certificate of Distinction from the International Congress of Entomology.
Michael’s many interests included gardening which he shared with his wife, Janet, and he liked to use his hands, particularly as a Lapidary. After two exhibitions of his cut cabochon gemstones, the Chairman of the London Gem and Mineral Society called him the best cutter of cabochons in North America. His other main interest, flowering after formal retirement, was in antiques and the materials from which they are made. This culminated in his book on “Bone, Ivory, and Horn” (and other natural materials), published by Schiffer. Sadly, he did not live to see the published book, but like him we all await the release later this year.
In 1953, before beginning his PhD, he married Audrey, his high school sweetheart who survives him. They had 4 children: John (University of Alberta) and Marius (University of Toronto), now also University Professors, Timothy, (Victoria Hospital, London), and Vanessa, the “Potato Lady” at the University of Guelph. Together they produced 10 grandchildren. Michael remembered the interviewing officer on his entry into Canada saying “It’s not you we want, but your children”. He thought they got lucky. In 1980 he married Janet, a former student who later became a Professor of Biology at Dalhousie University before turning to Law after coming to London. Michael and Janet were both inordinately proud of the children and grandchildren.

A memorial ceremony will be held at WESTVIEW FUNERAL CHAPEL, 709 Wonderland Road North, London, on Sunday, December 1, 2013 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. with a service at 1:00 p.m. Friends are invited to celebrate Michael’s life and share their memories with the family. In memory of Michael, donations may be made to the “Michael Locke Travel Scholarship Award” at Western University, Foundation Western, 1151 Richmond Street London, Ontario N6A 3K7. Online condolences may be made at www.westviewfuneralchapel.com

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