John Bradley Lewis
January 12, 1925 – October 25, 2017
John Bradley Lewis Professor Emeritus, McGill University 1925-2017
Dr. J.B. Lewis passed away peacefully at Kamloops Seniors Village, BC, with family at his side. John was predeceased by his first wife Diana Patricia Baillie and his brother Keith Dunham Lewis. John is survived by his wife Virginia Douglas Lewis, his children Deborah (Wolfgang) Judith and Michael and grandson Eric. Sharing in the mourning of John’s passing are Virginia’s son, Don (Jessica) and children Heather and Roby; Keith's children Penny and Joanna and wife Barbara. Deborah, Judith and Michael are profoundly grateful for their dad’s patient guidance while they grew up in that unique place and culture, Barbados.
John (known as “JB” to many of his friends, colleagues and students) was both a naturalist and a scholar. After serving in the Canadian Infantry in Holland in late stage of WW II, John followed his passion and earned his PhD in Marine Biology at McGill University. Over his career, his research interests took him over a broad range of locations from the arctic to tropical marine environments.
As an outstanding young biologist, John was commissioned in the early 1950s by McGill University to be the lead scientist to establish a new marine research centre in Barbados. The founding of McGill’s Bellairs Research Institute came at the direct bequest of Commander Carlyon Wilfred Bellairs, a retired British Naval Commander with a strong desire to help the people of Barbados benefit from a better understanding of the Caribbean Sea and the life that inhabits it. Commander Bellairs lived in Seabourne House in Barbados from 1938 to 1955.
Beginning with his early work at Bellairs Research Institute, John developed an international reputation for his research on tropical coral reefs and their ecology. John’s research was closely followed by the Barbados government and the University of the West Indies especially his work on sea urchins (Diadema), flying fish and coral reef ecology. John completed much of his research in the Caribbean waters near Bellairs Research Institute, first as its on-site Director until 1971 and later during frequent visits to Barbados on behalf of McGill University’s Department of Biology. John is the author of many scientific publications, including his book “Darwin’s Coral Atoll” which he dedicated to Ginny, Deborah, Judith and Michael.
John was very much a Montrealer and an esteemed member of the McGill community, where he served in many roles including the Director of McGill’s Redpath Museum. Upon retirement, John became Professor Emeritus. While living in Montreal, John shared close to 40 years of love as husband to Virginia Douglas Lewis, Professor Emerita of McGill’s Department of Psychology.
As a scientist, teacher and mentor, John guided many undergraduate and graduate students in the joys of researching the complexities of marine life and the interactions amongst the abundant and different organisms that inhabit the Caribbean Sea. John was an early SCUBA diver and a patient observer of all forms of sea life. In fact, many say that he spent more time in the water than out of it. While pursuing his own love of sea life, he introduced many students to marine biology. In his personal and professional lives, John touched many people. Everyone who knew John felt the joy of his genuine care, warmth and gentle nature.
John Bradley Lewis
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December 11, 2017
I was sad to hear of JB's passing but thankful for his life. I went to Barbados in 1966, JB proposed that I do my PhD research on seagrasses...he supported me financially in that pursuit giving me a free hand to pursue it, and employed by bride, Nina, as a lab technician. We have such good memories of "JB" as we affectionately called him, and of his family. He was a modest man, a gentle man. As a scientist he was a keen observer, wrote many key papers. Just within the last year I had some correspondence with JB telling him about my visit to the reefs he had documented many years earlier, he replied as if it those days in Barbados were yesterday. Thank you in so many ways, JB. - David and Nina Patriquin