Zoologist and community worker

Zoologist and community worker

Born: December 8, 1935; Died: April 3, 2014

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Dr Suzanne Louise Ullmann, who has died aged 78, was a zoologist and long-serving lecturer in zoology at the University of Glasgow.

Though born in Budapest, she had lived in the UK since the end of the Second World War. Her Jewish parents had visited England just at the outbreak of the war, leaving their daughter and her twin brothers in the care of their grandmothers. They had a harrowing time evading the Nazi agents, being moved around by sympathisers and it was not until 1946 as a child of 10 that Suzanne was reunited with her parents and two new siblings who only spoke English.

Despite next to no education during the war, she learnt English and did well enough in her London school to enter Chelsea College, London University, and take an honours degree in zoology, graduating in 1958. She went on to complete a doctorate, awarded in 1962.

She then moved to Edinburgh University as a research assistant in the Institute of Animal Genetics in 1961 and in 1964 was appointed an assistant lecturer in the department of zoology. She then moved to Glasgow in 1967, at an exciting time when Professor Newth was establishing the university's zoology department as a centre for developmental biology. She was a lecturer at Glasgow for the next 25 years until, frustrated by increasing administrative duties, she took early retirement in 1992 so that she could do more research.

Although her initial research interests were in the reproductive system of beetles, she moved first to mice and, following a year's study leave in Australia, became fascinated by the strange reproductive systems of marsupials. On her return to Glasgow, she established a breeding colony of potoroos and soon extended this to include the opossum Monodelphis domestica. She remained active in research on marsupials after her retirement, publishing several papers with colleagues in anatomy and physiology (Professor Tony Payne, Dr Sarah Mackay and Dr Des Gilmore) and working at the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht.

She managed to reconcile her life as a scientist with her strong Catholic faith and enjoyed arguing ethical issues and the discussions at the Philosophical Society. This was translated into practice through contributions to many charities and the personal touch, visiting those in hospitals and homes; she was the organiser for the Glasgow West branch of Contact the Elderly, a volunteer group that takes isolated elderly people to a member's house for tea and a chat each month. She was also a member of the Third World Aid Glasgow Group which raised funds for small scale intermediate technology projects and women's cooperatives.

She was a polyglot, fluent in Hungarian, German, English and Italian and enjoyed travel, in particular travel associated with her bee-keeping activities in later years. Her most recent visits were to annual meetings followed by field trips to local beekeepers in Argentina, Turkey and the Ukraine. She enjoyed hill-walking with the Glasgow Glenmore Club, played her cello with fellow musicians, tilled her vegetable plot and raised soft fruit, presenting her many friends with homemade jam. She was enthusiastic about all she undertook.

She had a phenomenal memory for faces and recognised people wherever she went, even though she had not seen them for many years. Her sense of direction was somewhat hazy and her personality was such that she could often drive one to distraction, but at the same time she was a most endearing person and will be sorely missed by all who knew and worked with her, as well as by the many students she taught over the years.

She is survived by her four twin siblings and their families in England and the US.