Odds and quads

September 1, 2011

These hair samples may look as if they come from the collection of a serial killer, but they were prepared by one of the major figures in the development of the University of Dundee's renowned programme of life science research.

Robert Percival Cook (1906-89), an Australian academic who had previously worked at the universities of London and Cambridge, joined Dundee's physiology department in 1940.

He soon developed a strong focus on biochemistry, eventually becoming head of a separate biochemistry department in 1966 and the university's first professor of biochemistry in 1972.

Professor Cook made his name with important research on cholesterol, some of which involved force-feeding himself with omelettes.

He later turned his attention to colour and created these hair samples for use in teaching.

Carnoustie is a small town near Dundee that is most famous for its golf course. Cook's samples suggest that it was also noteworthy as a source of red hair.

The display now forms part of the University of Dundee Museum Collections, along with other examples of Cook's work.

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