Brian Follett is an animal physiologist who specialises in studying how the environment regulates the seasonal life of birds and mammals. In particular he focussed upon how changes in the length of the day control reproduction, and within that concentrated upon the physiology and the neural changes whereby photoperiod modulates pituitary hormone research. An early breakthrough was to develop a radioimmunoassay allowing the measurement of luteinizing hormone (LH), and later other hormones, in minute (microlitre) samples of blood thereby allowing secretion to be tracked within individual birds. By applying this measurement technique, he has deepened our understanding of hormone cycles and has helped to discover how light is detected within the bird’s brain, its duration measured (using a circadian rhythm) and passed via neural circuitry to trigger the pituitary gland to release hormones - prompting sex organ development.
He has also made a number of contributions to academic and public life. He was Vice-Chancellor of Warwick University during one of its most successful periods, and after Chairing the School of Biological Sciences at Bristol for 15 years. He played a role in the revolution within university libraries as the internet came to dominate life. After his stint at Warwick he went on to Chair the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) and also the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Short term task included chairing a UK government-funded enquiry into the foot and mouth disease outbreak of 2001. He is committed to undergraduate teaching and for 15 years after Warwick taught as a non-stipendiary Professor in the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford.