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Professor Roger Carpenter ScD (1945-2017)

"With the greatest sadness, the College records the death on 27 October of Roger Carpenterformerly Professor of Oculomotor Physiology. Professor Carpenter served Caius as Tutor, Registrary and Director of Studies in Medicine, but above all he will remembered in College as a stimulating and generous member of the Fellowship and as an admired teacher of neuroscience to many generations of Caian medical students. His engaging supervisions and provocative questioning were intellectual in the noblest sense and inspired many Caians to combine experimental research with their medical career.

Roger himself was an international authority on oculomotor physiology and his ‘Movements of the Eyes’ proved to be a classic text. His own research, and his influential theoretical model, revealed how saccadic movements of the eyes could be used to study human decision making. For the single most frequent decision that we make is that of where to look, a decision that we make two or three times a second throughout our waking lives. At the time of his death, he was near to completing a book about his model, in collaboration with Imran Noorani – and had plans for a further book, on the nature of probability.

Professor Carpenter bore a long illness with a stoic fortitude, sustained by his private faith, and until very recently continued to do what he often said he most enjoyed – supervising undergraduates. He was a College don in the most honourable tradition."

Written for Gonville & Caius College by John Mollon, President, Gonville & Caius College


"Roger Carpenter was a Professor in the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience. Roger came to this University in 1963 as a natural science student at St John's College and received a first in Physiology with Psychology. He was a graduate student and postdoc with Sir Alan Hodgkin in the Department of Physiology, which he joined as a University Lecturer in 1973. Besides being an eminent neurophysiologist and innovator in the area of eye movements and decision making for which he won the Glaxo Prize in 1992 for the development of EPIC, he was a dedicated and wonderful teacher. In 1996, he won the Cambridge Foundation Prize for Outstanding Contribution to Teaching. His textbook Neurophysiology: A Conceptual Approach, now in its 5th edition, has helped students around the world come to grips with this challenging material starting from the most basic physical and biological principles. He was promoted to a Reader in 2001, a Professor in 2009, and retired in 2012. Roger was also a talented musician, and a profound thinker with original interests and insights in a wide range of subjects. He was a brilliant man who stuck by his principles as a physiologist and a teacher and continued to be passionate about both until the end. He will be much missed."

Professor Bill Harris, Head of Department, Physiology, Development and Neuroscience

Cambridge Neuroscience would like to extend its sympathy to Roger's family at this time.

Posted on 30/10/2017

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