Year of Honorary Fellowship, 2008
Robin is a retired zoologist, entomologist and biomechanicist, and occasional palaeoentomologist. He taught at Exeter University for 41 years, retiring in 2002 as Reader in Insect Biomechanics. His primary research field is insect flight mechanics, with particular reference to the functioning and engineering of insect wings, an area which he and his students pioneered. Towards the end of his career he took a largely passive interest in the application of insect flight mechanics to the development of small flying robots – Micro Air Vehicles. He is still an Honorary Research Fellow, which probably makes him the University’s longest-standing member, and is still publishing: recently on the relationship between the designs and flight techniques of dragonflies, on the geometry and functioning of insect wing deformations in flight, and on the reactions of 19th century Devonians to scientific advances.
Since 1968 Robin has been a member of the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and the Arts – a unique, 160 year old organization dedicated to the understanding and appreciation of every aspect of Devon (www.devonassoc.org.uk) through research, publication and discussion. He was Chairman from 2008 to 2014, and active in strengthening the Association, broadening its coverage and raising its profile; and initiating two new special interest Sections – Music and Industrial Archaeology – to complement the six that already existed. He organised the Association’s first ever art exhibition, in Exeter from 9th – 26th October 2014, and planned a major symposium and celebration of historical and cultural links between Devon and Newfoundland in 2017, led by the DA in collaboration with the Devon Family History Society. He is on the committees of the Association’s Literature and Art Section, Music Section and Entomology Section, and is currently the Association’s President. His Presidential address was on the reactions of 19th century Devonians to Darwinism and other scientific advances, and his Presidential symposium, on May 14th, will be on Devon in 2050.
Robin remains in contact with entomologists, palaeoentomologists and biomechanicists worldwide. He lectures widely to a variety of audiences, primarily on aspects of animal flight, insect wings and evolution, folding structures from origami to beetle hindwings, animal illustrators, historic naturalists and notable Devonians – most recently Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts and novelist and composer Bruce Montgomery – ‘Edmund Crispin’.