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Sir John Graham Kerr

Biography of Sir John Graham Kerr

Sir John Graham Kerr
Sir John Graham Kerr

Sir John Graham Kerr (1869-1957), was the Regius Professor of Zoology at the University from 1902 until 1935 and a member of Court from 1913 to 1921. The Zoology Building was renamed the Graham Kerr Building in his honour.

Kerr studied Medicine at the University of Edinburgh and Natural Sciences at Christ's College, Cambridge. He joined two expeditions to South America and specimens collected on the second expedition are preserved at the University. He was involved in many scientific organisations, including the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow (of which he was a President). In 1935 he was elected a Member of Parliament for the Scottish Universities and held the seat until it was abolished in 1950. He was knighted in 1939.

During The Great War, Kerr attempted to have his research on camouflage in the animal kingdom applied to war ships and aeroplanes used by Britain and her allied forces. He wrote many times to the Admiralty offering his services and expertise on the subject. He argued that using certain colours and patterns of paint could make the ships more difficult to see. However, his ideas were not taken seriously and a rival version of this came to be used during the War. Known as 'dazzle camouflage,' the principles were similar, if not the same as Kerr's theories, although he received no credit. This resulted in a lengthy legal battle after the War. His theories and techniques, with the help of his student, Hugh B. Cott were influential during the Second World War.

The John Graham Kerr Chair of Zoology was founded in 1965.


Sir John Graham Kerr

Born 18 September 1869.
Died 21 April 1957.
University Link: Professor
GU Degree:
Occupation categories: politicians; zoologists
NNAF Reference: GB/NNAF/P16200
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Record last updated: 5th Jun 2015

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