Zoologist and broadcaster

Born: April 24, 1930;

Died: October 20, 2018

PROFESSOR Aubrey Manning, who has died aged 88, was an international authority on the world of nature and ecology and had a life-long passion for the animal kingdom. He researched animals' behaviour, development and evolution in their natural habitat with a scrupulous insight. He was Professor of Natural History at Edinburgh University from 1973–97 and in 1997, in recognition of his contribution to advancing awareness of ecological matters, a gallery in the Natural History Collection at the university was named in his honour.

Professor Manning was a also pioneering chairman of the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) from 2005-2010. His reputation as a naturalist and educator advanced the trust’s work considerably. Nigel Doar, a colleague in the trust, has commented: “While he was chair at SWT, Aubrey encouraged the growth of urban nature conservation – supporting action to help nature to flourish in cities. This went against the traditional view at the time, but he was always very clear in his view that people need to have an emotional and intellectual connection to the natural world because it’s good for them and it’s good for the natural world too.”

Aubrey William George Manning was born in Chiswick, west London; his father was a grocery inspector but when the Second World War was declared the family moved to Englefield Green in Surrey. As a child, Professor Manning often wandered in the nearby Windsor Great Park where he developed his interest in the surrounding wildlife.

He attended Strode’s Grammar School in Egham and firstly, read zoology at University College London and then studied animal behaviour at Merton College, Oxford under the Nobel prizewinning ornithologist Nikolaas Tinbergen. He then wrote his DPhil on the behaviour of bumblebees.

Professor Manning did his national service in the Royal Artillery and joined Edinburgh University in 1956 as an assistant lecturer in zoology. He became a great lover of Scotland: its history, culture and traditions - and its countryside. He was to remain a keen hill walker all his life.

His powers as a lecturer were widely admired at the university. Many non-zoology undergraduates used to attend his lectures (usually at 9.00am on a Monday morning) and gained a life-long interest in the environment and nature.

Professor Manning led field expeditions to many remote areas of Scotland. He would often arrive with a group of students at St Abb’s Head, Berwickshire and enthuse them with the living habits of the guillemots.

He was a passionate and influential campaigner. He believed that people could not exist separately from the environment in which they lived and that constructive planning must balance the needs of human beings with those of the natural world.

“I am not arguing for biologists to rule the world," he told students at Edinburgh in a 2011 lecture entitled “Population: Can we begin to talk sensibly?”, "But I do believe that economic planning — social planning of all kinds — should listen to what biologists have to say to help in the construction of a long-term future.”

Professor Manning’s BBC TV programmes gained wide audiences – especially the Landscape Mysteries series. One programme, The Tower People of Shetland, was particularly memorable. Professor Manning presented it from Shetland and investigated the brochs, mysterious stone towers which once stood on the island. Similarly fascinating was his eight-part series on BBC2, Earth Story, about the evolution and history of the planet. He also published widely - his first book was with a school friend on wood warblers.

A major interest was his 16th-century home, the Old Hall in Ormiston, near Tranent, which was built as a community centre by the Cockburn family in the 18th century. After a varied history – Polish soldiers were billeted there during the Second World War - Professor Manning restored it and incorporated much of its original history.

He was elected fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1973 and made an OBE in 1998. In 2003 he received the silver medal of the Zoological Society in recognition of his work to improve public understanding of science and was a Fellow of the Geological Society of Scotland. Apart from the Wildlife Trust Professor Manning served as a trustee of the National Museums of Scotland and of Project Wallacea, which runs biological and conservation management research programmes in remote locations across the world.

Professor Manning was a great lover of music (especially Mozart), woodland regeneration and 19th century novels. After his retirement, as an emeritus professor he was active at Edinburgh University and was a continued and much respected presence in the Ashworth Laboratories. He retained a great zest for science and life and recently gave a fascinating lecture at the university on Scotland’s Place in Earth’s History.

In 1959 he married a fellow Oxford student Margaret Bastock. She died in 1982 and he is survived by their two sons. In 1985 Professor Manning married Joan Herrmann who survives him with their son.