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Having completed his PhD at the University of Sheffield in 1967, John was appointed Assistant Lecturer in Botany at the Victoria University of Manchester.

He was promoted to be Head of Department of Environmental Biology in 1986 and appointed to the Chair in 1988. He was appointed to the Chair of Environmental Biology in the University of Sheffield in 1994, retiring as Dean of Science in 2005.

During his career, John served on several committees of the Natural Environment Research Council including the Polar Sciences and Terrestrial Life Sciences Committees, as well as the Economic and Social Research Council’s Training Board. His research interests were in the field of plant ecology, which involved field work in this country but also in the Arctic.

He has been actively involved in the major scientific societies, being a past President of both the British Ecological Society and the International Society of Ecology (of which he remains a board member). He was a member of the National Trust from 1998 to 2009 and served on the Trust’s North West Advisory Board.