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More about Me


I was born in Basingstoke, England on May 7th, 1970, in a bizarre coincidence in the same hospital a couple of months before my friend and collegue, Simon Braddy, though we didn't know each other at the time. I moved to Cleethorpes some three years later, a seside town famous for being the place where people from Doncaster go on holiday and generally the butt of jokes from comedians who aren't funny.

I first went to Signhills School, Cleethorpes, which to my eternal shame was opened by Margaret Thatcher (this joke won't work in a few years). One of the first stories I remember writing at school was about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said there are two types of scientist, one who invents things and one who studies things. I wanted to be a scientist who studied things (yeah, right sonny).

As a child I became interested in the fact that you can throw flies into spider's webs and watch them get eaten. 'Aint kids great. Anyway that's how I became interested in spiders and subsequently arachnids in general. Getting a pet tarantula for my 16th birthday also fired an arachnological enthusiasm. There are worse things to be called than 'Spiderman'.


Later I went to the Lindsey Comprehensive school, Cleethorpes where I learnt a little German (well I'd never need it later would I ?). At one point I thought medicine would be a good career, until I realised that Chemistry and Physics are nothing more than applied maths and very hard. Perhaps zoology would be better, though my biology teachers encouraged my chosen career by showing me articles entitled "Zoologists need not apply".

Anyway I somehow managed to get the A level grades to study zoology at Leeds University. Working far too hard on the expectation of being thrown out after my first year, I actually came out with a First class degree, the Wynne Owen Prize for the best lab project, a study of tarantula physiology which was subsequently published, and a pretty good knowledge of spider biology.

Now for a Ph.D. Anything on spiders would have been OK, but at Manchester Dr John Dalingwater introduced me to Paul Selden who had a project on relatives of fossil spiders. I liked dinosaurs as a kid, so spider dinosaurs was a pretty good compromise and I came up with my Ph.D. on 'Paleobiology of the Trigonotarbids' which I managed to finish in under 3 years.


Actually I had to finish my Ph.D. on time to start a postdoc. into the 'Origins and Early Radiation of the Chelicerata'. Staying at Manchester for want of anywhere better to go, I started to play the big phylogeny game. If I had spent less time on stage with my thespian friends, and more time in the lab, I might have come up with an answer sooner than the last six months of the project and had less sleepness nights about where my subsequent pay cheques would come from.

But then more bizarre coincidences. While playing an East German 'Stasiman' in the play 'Berlin Bertie' I applied for the job as Curator of Chelicerata in the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, and thought nothing more of it. Ich spreche nur wenig Deutsch. I was somewhat surprised to be shortlisted and subsequently selected for this post.

So here I am in Berlin....


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