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Pioneering doctor of spiders and conservationist dies aged 97

PUBLISHED: 12:45 06 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:19 06 March 2019

Dr Eric Duffey OBE was a pioneer arachologist. Photo: British Arachnological Society

Dr Eric Duffey OBE was a pioneer arachologist. Photo: British Arachnological Society

British Arachnological Society

A pioneering arachnologist from west Norfolk, who discovered a UK population of rare spiders, has died.

Dr Eric Duffey OBE passed away peacefully February 11. Photo: British Arachnological SocietyDr Eric Duffey OBE passed away peacefully February 11. Photo: British Arachnological Society

Dr Eric Duffey OBE passed away peacefully on February 11, aged 97.

Before his retirement, Dr Duffey was president of the British Arachnology Society from 1969-73, editor of Biological Conservation, a trailblazer of conservation research at the Nature Conservancy and was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to nature in 1962.

Chief executive of Suffolk Wildlife Trust Julian Roughton said: “We were very saddened to hear of the death of Dr Eric Duffey who was one of our supporters and a pioneer of modern nature conservation, who will forever be remembered as the eminent arachnologist who in 1956, found the fen raft spider at Redgrave and Lopham Fen.

“Five years after its discovery Suffolk Wildlife Trust was founded to safeguard Redgrave and Lopham Fen and it became the trust’s first nature reserve.”

DR Eric Duffey OBE discovered an internationally endangered spider in Norfolk. Photo: British Arachnological SocietyDR Eric Duffey OBE discovered an internationally endangered spider in Norfolk. Photo: British Arachnological Society

Dr Duffey’s funeral will take place at 1pm on Friday, March 8 at Mintlyn Crematorium in King’s Lynn, with donations in lieu of flowers to go to the Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

Mr Roughton said: “Donations in Eric’s memory will go towards the restoration of Fen Belt, a recent extension to Market Weston Fen nature reserve. Dr Duffey undertook spider recording here, describing its spider fauna as characteristically East Anglian at its best. Restoring habitats for vulnerable species will be a fitting way to remember his unique contribution to nature conservation in Britain.”

Dr Duffey, who lived in Dersingham, published many articles on the eight-legged creatures, including Sporadic Spider Attacks: Few Injured, None Dead for the New Scientist in 1981.

The British Arachnological Society said: “We’re very sad to learn of the death of renowned arachnologist and ecologist Dr Eric Duffey.”

In 2011 a selection of Dr Duffey’s extensive spider collection was sent to the Manchester Museum, including 138 jars of identified spiders, representing 560 British species and 110 additional species from Europe.

Dr Duffey also sent 70 jars containing unidentified spiders that staff of the museum’s entomology department have been attempting to identify.

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