David Alan Walker was born in Kingston upon Hull, England. He entered King’s College, Newcastle, then part of the University of Durham, where he received his BSc, and subsequently his PhD under Meirion Thomas FRS in 1958. Later, in 1968 he was awarded a DSc at the University of Newcastle in recognition of his exceptional contributions of published work in his field. In 1991 he received a Humboldt Research Prize, and in 2004 the inaugural Communications Award from the International Society of Photosynthesis Research. He was the author of more than 230 publications, including several books. He made important contributions to the understanding of photosynthesis, in particular the fixation of carbon dioxide by the biochemical transformations of the Benson–Calvin cycle in the stroma of chloroplasts of higher plants. Based on the meticulous attention to detail and technical prowess derived from his earlier training as an enzymologist, his work prompted totally new thinking about how this cycle was regulated and how it interfaced with the synthesis of ATP and NADPH in the light reactions of photosynthesis. Later, he was one of a very small group of people to recognize that this regulation was observable in whole leaves through the changes in chlorophyll fluorescence, helping to open the door to one of the most widely used tools in plant physiology. After periods at Newcastle, Purdue, Cambridge, Queen Mary College and Imperial College, London, he spent the largest part of his academic career as a professor at the University of Sheffield. There he established a world-renowned photosynthesis research group that grew into one of the university’s first semi-autonomous research institutes, the Research Institute for Photosynthesis, later renamed the Robert Hill Institute. This legacy persists more than 30 years later. He also distinguished himself in the wider aspects of being a scientist: long before it became fashionable, he wrote about the issues of food, energy and global change in his 1992 book Energy, plants and man. His enthusiasm for communicating both the joy of science and these serious issues led to many other imaginative schemes and endeavours, again long before the need for greater ‘public understanding of science’ became recognized.
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