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27 June 2018 Sir Patrick Bateson FRS, 1938–2017
Ted R. Anderson
Author Affiliations +

Sir Patrick “Pat” Bateson, who was elected both a Fellow of the Royal Society and an Honorary Fellow of the American Ornithologists' Union (now American Ornithological Society) in 1983, died on August 1, 2017, at the age of 79. He was a pioneer in the experimental study of behavior in birds and spent most of his career at Cambridge University.

Paul Patrick Gordon Bateson was born in Chimor, Oxfordshire, on March 31, 1938, to Richard and Sölvi (Berg) Bateson. He developed a keen interest in birdwatching as a boy and decided to become a biologist at a young age. He attended Westminster School in London before going up to King's College, Cambridge, in 1957, to read Natural Sciences. After completing his undergraduate degree with a First (earning the university's Frank Smart Prize in Zoology), he continued at Cambridge to pursue his doctorate under the supervision of Robert Hinde in the Sub-Department of Animal Behaviour. He completed his thesis, “The Development of Filial and Avoidance Behaviour in the Domestic Chicken,” in 1963.

Following completion of his Ph.D., Bateson obtained a Harkness Fellowship at Stanford University, where he worked with Karl Pribram for two years. He then returned to Cambridge as junior lecturer in the Department of Zoology and junior research fellow at King's College. He remained at Cambridge for the duration of his professional career, becoming professor of ethology; serving from 1976 to 1988 as director of the Sub-Department of Animal Behaviour; and serving as provost of King's College from 1988 to 2003. He retired from the university in 2005.

Bateson's early work on behavioral development was centered on birds, particularly chickens and quail, but like his mentor Robert Hinde before him, he expanded his research program to include mammals, especially cats and monkeys. He published more than 300 scientific papers and authored or coauthored several books. Topics to which he made significant contributions include imprinting, mate choice, phenotypic plasticity, the evolution of behavior, and the role of play in the development of adult behavior. Kevin Laland writes in his Nature obituary for Bateson that he “exposed the folly of such false dichotomies” as the hotly debated hereditary vs. environmental determination of human behavioral traits. His last book, published in 2017, is Behaviour, Development and Evolution (Open Book Publishers).

Sir Patrick Bateson (courtesy of Dusha Bateson)


In addition to the honors mentioned above, Bateson was knighted in 2003 and was named Distinguished Animal Behavorist in 2015, an award presented annually since 1990 by the Animal Behavior Society to recognize “an outstanding career in animal behavior.” He also served as biological secretary and vice-president of the Royal Society from 1998 to 2003, and as president of the Zoological Society of London from 2004 to 2014.

Pat married Dusha Matthews, whom he met at Cambridge, in 1963, and the newlyweds embarked on the Queen Mary to pursue his postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford. Their marriage produced two daughters, Melissa and Anna. Pat and Dusha were warm and engaging hosts for the many visitors to King's College while he was provost, including luminaries such as the Dalai Lama, Princess Margaret, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Salman Rushdie. Pat is survived by Dusha, Melissa, Anna, and two grandchildren.

In his eulogy at the memorial service for Bateson at King's College Chapel on November 18, 2017, former student and colleague Paul Martin said, “Those of us who knew him will lovingly remember him as a man of huge warmth, humor, and kindness. His success as a leader, teacher, and administrator of science owed much to these qualities. . . . Pat was at heart a conceptual thinker who loved painting the big theoretical picture.”


I thank King's College archivist Dr. Patricia McGuire for providing information and Melissa Bateson for reading and commenting on a draft of this memorial.

© 2018 American Ornithological Society.
Ted R. Anderson "Sir Patrick Bateson FRS, 1938–2017," The Auk 135(3), 814-815, (27 June 2018).
Published: 27 June 2018
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