THE death of Dr Mahala Andrews at the age of 58 has meant the loss of a highly distinguished vertebrate palaeontologist. Dr Andrews read zoology

at Girton College, Cambridge, before moving to Newcastle to work with Professor T S Westoll for seven years, during which her PhD thesis was published. She came to Scotland in 1968 to take up her appointment as Senior Scientific Officer at the Royal Scottish Museum, becoming a PPO five years later. Ill health caused her early retirement in 1993.

Mahala Andrews's research focused on the fossil fishes of the devonian and carboniferous periods, about 400 to 300 million years ago. She was particularly interested in the so-called lobe-finned fishes, the group from which the first land vertebrates evolved. An early benchmark work was her description (with Prof T S Westoll) of the body skeleton of the Canadian lobe-fin Eusthenopleran foordi, published in 1970. This monograph established her trademark approach of careful and detailed anatomical description coupled with restrained palaeobiological speculation. Most of her career was spent working on the rich fossil fish material of Scotland, particularly on the Rhizodontia, an assemblage of very large (up to six metres) lobe-fins from the carboniferous period. In a series of papers from 1970 to 1985 she demonstrated the unity of this group and added greatly to our knowledge of rhizodont

ana-tomy. Today, this work forms one of the principal under-

pinnings of research on to the origin of land vertebrates.

Mahala Andrews was, without doubt, a scientific perfectionist. Her rate of output was slow, and some important work remains unpublished in manuscript form at the time of her death. How-ever, the same perfectionism gave her papers a depth and robustness which have allowed them to weather the years. Her work forms a lasting and central contribution to the palaeontology of early vertebrates.

She was also remarkable for her wide range of interests to which she applied the same meticulousness. They included beautiful calligraphy, delicately original designs in tatting, and an amazing collection of pebbles.

Mahala brought to her struggles with her Christian faith that same dissatisfaction with the inadequate, that same creativity of mind and imagination that characterised everything she did, and she died at peace on her beloved Iona.