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Fellows Directory

McNeill Alexander

McNeill Alexander

Professor McNeill Alexander CBE FRS


Elected: 1987


McNeill Alexander was a leading British authority in the field of biomechanics; his contributions were acclaimed internationally. Until 1970, he was mainly concerned with fish, investigating the mechanics of swim bladders, tails and jaw mechanisms. Subsequently, he concentrated on the mechanics of terrestrial locomotion, notably walking and running in mammals, particularly on gait selection and its relationship to anatomy and to the structural design of skeletons and muscles.

Using films, force-platform analysis and tensile testing, he formulated theories of optimum gait selection and safety factors. These have been tested in a wide range of mammals, including humans, and have been found to have wide applicability. They have also been used to calculate dinosaur speeds and to predict design constraints in large dinosaurs. McNeill’s work was characterised by an mixture of field studies, laboratory experimentation and theoretical modelling. He was an excellent teacher with an encyclopaedic knowledge of zoology, both vertebrate and invertebrate.

Professor McNeill Alexander CBE FRS died on 21 March 2016.

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Earth and environmental sciences
    • Geology
  • Organismal biology, evolution and ecology
    • Organismal biology (including invertebrate and vertebrate zoology), Biological modelling
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