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Fellows Directory

David Smith

David Smith

Sir David Smith FRS


Elected: 1975


David Smith was a botanist who researched mutually beneficial relationships between organisms, also known as symbiosis. He increased our understanding of the physiology and ecology of lichens, which are made up of fungi and algae in a symbiotic relationship that helps both to survive.

David investigated many symbiotic relationships between algae and fungi, and algae and animals. He discovered the similarity of carbohydrate metabolism in lichens and coelenterates — a class of animals including corals. He went on to demonstrate similar processes in organisms involved in other symbiotic relationships, such as mycorrhizae, which are common associations between the mycelium of a fungus and plant roots.

David was the author of several books on symbiosis. He was President of Wolfson College, Oxford and strengthened teaching, research and financial policy during his tenure as Principal of the University of Edinburgh. He was awarded the Gold Medal for Botany by the Linnean Society of London and received a knighthood in 1986.

Sir David Smith died on 29 June 2018.

Biographical Memoir

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Organismal biology, evolution and ecology
    • Plant sciences / botany
  • Other
    • Other interests
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