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Obituary. David N MacLennan

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David N. MacLennan

It is with great sadness that we report the passing, at the age of 80 years, of David MacLennan, one of the great pioneers of fisheries acoustics.  He succumbed to a stroke earlier this week, which is particularly sad given his recent promising recovery from preliminary cancer treatment.  This indomitable spirit was a characteristic of the great man, who worked for over 50 years in fisheries science.  David took a 1st class honours degree in physics at the University of Aberdeen in 1962 and worked initially in the Harwell Atomic Research Institute before arriving at the Marine Laboratory Aberdeen in 1967 to study trawl performance.  When asked why he had made the change he was reported to have said that trying to make measurements inside a nuclear reactor can’t be more difficult than making observations in the North Sea, at 100m depth, in the dark and a force 8 gale.

He worked for several years in fishing technology, where he developed long standing relationships with colleagues such as Tony Hawkins, Clem Wardle, Dick Ferro and Peter Stewart.  In 1980 he became head of the sonar section and started his famous working relationship with his colleague John Simmonds on acoustic techniques and systems.  Over the rest of his career, he forged a global reputation in the field of fisheries acoustics.  The book he co-authored with John maintains its authority in this field and has been cited over 2500 times in its two editions: the article he wrote on acoustic definitions was, until recently, one of the most cited papers from the ICES journal.  The book was preceded by courses which he delivered in many places, and the material is still in use to this day as part of the MSc course at the University of Aberdeen and at ICES.  Dave was very hands on when the opportunity arose and enjoyed the practical side of sonar work. He was often found rigged out in a set of over-short sea gear alongside colleagues such as Phil Copland and Eric Armstrong at the field site at Loch Duich where the fundamentals of target strength measurements and broadband acoustics were investigated.

Dave served for a number of years as the deputy director of the Marine Laboratory before retiring to take up consultancy and editing work in 1995. His expertise drew him to many meetings and projects all over the world, including a two-year period as Chief Technical Advisor in charge of acoustic studies in Lake Victoria.  He was a popular member of the global acoustic community that is ICES WGFAST and would have attended the majority of its meetings since the very first one in 1984.  In 2017 he wrote one of ICES food for thought pieces, reflecting on his career and Fisheries Science in general – an illuminating and thought-provoking article.  David continued working and collaborating up until the very end.
 A cherished colleague, who was always the life and soul of any party, Dave will be sadly missed.  He leaves a wife, Sheila – who would have been known to many, as she often accompanied him to FAST meetings – two children, Neil and Suzie, and four grandchildren.  So clan MacLennan lives on, in life, in print and in spirit. 

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