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Dr Colin Butler - OBE, FRS, OM - 1913 - 2016

Friday, 01 July 2016

Dr Colin Gasking Butler, OBE, FRS & OM

July 2016 - The Butler Laboratory is opened at the Senior School.

On 1 July 2016 members of the science department at Monkton Senior School gathered for a formal name changing ceremony. The Junior Science Laboratory (which has an indoor beehive) was renamed ‘The Butler Laboratory’ in honour of former pupil and eminent entomologist Dr Colin Butler.

Phil Brown, the school’s long serving bee keeper, was given the task of cutting the tape, before all concerned enjoyed toasting the occasion with some of Phil’s 2014 prize winning mead.

Phil Brown outside the newly named Butler laboratory

January 2016

We are sad to announce that our oldest OM has died at the age of 102.   Dr Colin Butler was born on 26th October 1913 and passed away on the 4th January 2016 after a short illness.  He attended the school in 1927 and left in 1930.  He went on to study Natural Sciences at Queens' College Cambridge where he gained his BA and Book Prize and then gained his PhD and MA in 1938.  He then went on to become a leading authority on bee behaviour in their communities. 

His field studies of honey bees explained much of their behaviour and helped to solve pollination problems in crops. Outstanding among his discoveries about mechanisms controlling behaviour in the hive was the recognition of ‘queen substance’; he showed how this, produced in the mandibular glands of the queen, is distributed through a colony and inhibits workers from rearing queens and swarming. His collaboration with Robert Kenneth Callow led to its identification and synthesis. He has since shown that queen bees produce another inhibiting substance, this one volatile and not made only in the mandibular glands, and has gained evidence that actions other than queen-rearing are also governed by specific substances. There is already reason to consider that his conclusions about the chemical control of social behaviour apply to other gregarious insects than bees.

Colin was a Fellow of the Royal Society and was awarded an OBE.  He was Head of the Entomology Department Rothamsted Experimental Station in Harpenden between 1972–1976 and a past President of the Royal Entomology Society.

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