Brian Case, 1947-2010

February 11, 2010

An acclaimed botanical photographer who established a pioneering course in biological imaging and was promoted to associate professor despite not having a degree has died.

Brian Case was born on 24 December 1947 and educated at Fareham School in the Nottingham suburb of Clifton. He started his working life as an apprentice at the commercial and industrial photographers Layland-Ross.

In 1970, this led to an appointment as a photographic technician in what was then the department of botany at the University of Nottingham, now incorporated into its School of Biology.

He was to stay there for the remaining four decades of his life as experimental officer, chief experimental officer and then course director of a still unique MSc in biological imaging and photography.

Not long before his death, his outstanding contribution was recognised by a promotion to associate professor, a highly unusual achievement for someone without a degree or other formal qualification beyond on-the-job training.

Although he started at Nottingham with little knowledge of biology, Professor Case soon became an important part of a scientific team just beginning to appreciate the importance of "marketing" their work.

Alongside more routine photographic assignments such as portraits for magazines, this required him to adapt to the challenges of often working under aseptic conditions and to keep abreast of ever-changing developments in time-lapse photography, electron micrography and ultraviolet recording, which enabled academics to present their results in the most compelling way.

Edward Cocking, emeritus professor of botany at Nottingham, said: "I was initially impressed by his professionalism, his devotion to every aspect of photography and ability to keep up with all the techniques.

"He was very much the master photographer and well able to cope with the demands of researchers who always want everything to be perfect straight away."

Such rare skills led to Professor Case's being awarded a coveted fellowship of the Master Photographers Association in 1977. They also proved crucial when he set up a course in photography and imaging in 1989 as a module for biology undergraduates. Eleven years later he followed this up with the MSc.

This now offers 16 hotly contested places a year and incorporates business and marketing plus video and website production alongside the latest photographic techniques. Resources include a mini-natural history museum as well as studios and a microscopy suite.

Although a long-term sufferer of progressive leukaemia, Professor Case died of pneumonia on 19 January 2010 and is survived by his wife Sandra, a son and a daughter.

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