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It would take more than a wobbling bridge to knock Sir Anthony Caro from the position he holds as Britain's foremost living sculptor.

A former assistant to Henry Moore and widely regarded as his successor, his work is displayed in 98 museums and in the "blade of light" Millennium Bridge over the Thames, which he designed with Sir Norman Foster.

He was born in Surrey and educated at Charterhouse. He studied engineering at Christ's College, Cambridge, encouraged by his family to study something that would lead to a career. But after national service with the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy during the war, he defied his father's hopes that he would become a stockbroker and enrolled first at Regent Street Polytechnic Institute, London, then, in 1947, at the Royal Academy in London, to study fine art.

He combined part-time work for Henry Moore in the early 1950s with another part-time job teaching at St Martin's School of Art, helping to form the influential department of sculpture and encouraging young artists to work in materials such as plastic, fibreglass and steel. Among his students were David Annersley, Phillip King, Tim Scott and William Tucker.

His early work was principally figurative, in clay. But, inspired by a tour of Mexico and the United States in 1959, and particularly after a meeting with sculptor David Smith, he began to concentrate on working in steel, painting much of it in bright colours.

He continued to teach at St Martin's for nearly 30 years and spent periods teaching at Bennington College, Vermont, and at the University of Alberta. Considered groundbreaking in the 1960s and still, aged 76, able to surprise with his work, he has been critical of young artists' reliance on shock tactics and desire to earn money, saying, "I want to see something that will last more than a year".

Unlike Moore, he accepted a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday honours in 1987. "My mum was pleased," he said.

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