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Reginald Dawson Preston. 21 July 1908 – 3 May 2000

David Cushing

Elected F.R.S. 1954


Professor Preston was born in Leeds on 21 July, 1908. His father, Walter Cluderoy Preston, was a self–employed builder who read Nature each week, but at that time the journal had a more general character than it has today. He was particularly knowledgeable in geography. He had some skill as a monumental mason and sculptor mainly of cemetery memorials. He had taught his son to read and ensured that he was well read; the child had read Robinson Crusoe at the age of five years and was reading Paradise lost at the age of four. His grandfather's brother made a living rolling pills in the cellar of his house and this was developed into a successful chemical business. Preston's great uncle Walter was married to Ethel and when she died he built over her grave in Lawnswood cemetery a statue (called ‘Ethel at the gate’) of her waiting, looking for his return as she had done during her lifetime. The memorial was featured in local postcards for many years. Preston's paternal grandfather, John Roger Gilpin Preston, was a prominent builder in Leeds, who became bankrupt and died of pneumoconiosis at the age of 45 years. His grandmother, Ann Cluderoy, was expert at cleaning ostrich feathers, fashionable ornaments at that time. They had three sons, of whom Preston's father was the eldest, and two daughters. Roger Preston had built Mount Pisgah Chapel in Tong Road, New Wortley, in Leeds, and later, during the Boer War, he built a residential estate. Preston's father rescued some furniture, crockery and some silver, and a piano with a movable keyboard on which Preston practised. His mother was Eliza Dawson, a seamstress whose mother, Rebecca White, had come from Ilkeston in Derbyshire; Preston's mother insisted that her son go to university. In April 1935 Preston married Sara Jane Pollard, by whom he had a son, David Roger, and two daughters, Maureen Anne, a physiotherapist, and Judith Margaret, a dental nurse. His wife died in 1962, as did David, who had become an organic chemist employed by Glaxo at Greenham and then by Imperial Chemical Industries and by Professor Lipson at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. In October 1963, in Leeds, Preston married Eva Frei (DrScNat), a Swiss scientist who had come to work with him.