John Lane, Chief Technician and Curator of Entomology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, has died aged 85. He worked at the School for a total of 29 years, from 1960 to 1966 and again from 1972 to 1995.
John was brought up in Jersey but evacuated to Bray in Lancashire during the Second World War. On completing his secondary education, he returned to Jersey to work on agricultural pests at the States Experimental Farm, before moving on to the East of Scotland College of Agriculture in Edinburgh. In 1960, his skills in insect taxonomy secured him a post in the Department of Medical Entomology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. In 1966 John travelled to the USA to join the Smithsonian Institute in Washington where he worked for six years on the classification and identification of the mosquitoes of South East Asia.
Returning to London, John taught practical entomology to staff, students and visitors to the School. As curator of the entomology library and the School’s insect collection he ensured that a vital entomological resource was maintained within the Keppel Street building. The books and specimens he preserved continue to be available for the education of staff and students. Many of the older exhibits and specimens displayed in class demonstrations to date still bear his distinctive tiny handwriting.
By the time of his retirement in 1995, John was recognised as an authority on insects and of mosquitoes in particular. He was the reference point for all insect specimens brought to the School for identification, and received mosquitoes for identification from Belize, Venezuela, Amazonas, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the Gambia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and many other countries. In 1979, he even had a newly-discovered South American species named after him – Anopheles (Anopheles) veruslanei.
Outside the lab, John was also an enthusiastic birdwatcher and dedicated cyclist, two passions he kept up throughout his life and into his long, active retirement. For the past 20 years he lived in Suffolk. Eventually, the onset of Meniere’s Disease affected his balance, and he had to give up his bicycle at the age of 82.
John died from pneumonia on Friday 26th August 2016. He is survived by his two sisters, and nine nieces and nephews; members of his family spent the last few days with him, bringing a smile to his face by reading out extracts from his cycling magazines and entomology books.
An obituary for John Lane was also published in the Guardian.