Zander Wedderburn 1935-2017: Obituary
Zander Wedderburn with his 2013 book ‘B: A Life of Love'

By Greg J. Bamber, PhD HW, Professor, Monash Business School, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia and Visiting Professor, Newcastle University, UK.

Zander Wedderburn has died aged 81. He was an international authority on shiftwork. His contributions were at the interface between research and practice. He led key interventions in shiftwork that had significant impact improving workers' experiences of shiftwork by challenging conventional shiftwork practices, for example, in factories and hospitals. This was important work, not least since shiftworkers are a vital yet neglected minority - around 15 per cent of the working population.

He was a Fellow of the Working Time Society, a member of the British Universities Industrial Relations Association and was an influential President of the British Psychological Society in 2003-04, only the third occupational psychologist to achieve that role -

As a young man, while on national service he had worked shifts in the Navy and as a graduate at Corby Steel Works. He worked subsequently on industrial-relations research at Cardiff University. He then moved to Heriot-Watt, which he served for 32 years, including on its Senate and as Head of the School of Management.

Most of his teaching was in the area of making psychology available to students of business and engineering, and he established a part-time M.Sc. in Occupational Psychology taught jointly with Strathclyde University.

After retiring in 2000 as an Emeritus Professor, he founded publishing company Fledgling Press. His many other roles include being founding editor of the Shiftwork International Newsletter.

Zander had a PhD from Heriot-Watt and an MA from Oxford (1959, Exeter College). He published important articles; the first appeared (with J. Gray, 1960, in the Quarterly J. of Experimental Psych., 12) based on his Honours project. It challenged Broadbent's theory of binaural attention and switching between ears; it became a much-cited article. His 2013 memoir was a ‘love letter' to his beloved Bridget (B), his wife, who died a year before him -

In spite of universities' increasing demands that academics focus narrowly on publishing research articles in elite academic journals, Zander always made time for universities' broader roles including internal and external service and supervising students.

He was a great mentor. His quirky but effective way of supervising included discussing their research in various other contexts besides his office, including, for example, while they were exercising or while in the queue for Edinburgh Fringe Festival tickets (before on-line ticket sales). He was a conscientious citizen, generous in terms of helping students, alumni, colleagues, practitioners and other people. Also he contributed his considerable talents to furthering the arts, social and political causes.

At least two of Zander's PhD graduates progressed to become professors in Australia including me and Professor Peter A Smith, formerly of CQUniversity. Zander visited Australia several times and is well known there and in many other countries. Peter started at The Watt in1970 as Zander's first PhD student. When he delivered a lovely eulogy at Zander's funeral he said, "Zander's international colleagues will be meeting in Uluru, Australia. Professor Frida Marina Fischer, the President of the international Working Time Society has set aside time at the meeting to acknowledge and celebrate Zander's contribution to research into night and shiftwork and his dedication to ensuring that research was transferred into practice to improve working lives."

London Business School's Professor Nigel Nicholson commented, "Zander was a big man. Big in stature, big in spirit, big in intellect, big in purpose. Without effort he often dwarfed others around him, but to quote Roald Dahl's book (1982) he was a "Big Friendly Giant" – he was gentle as well as strong. We always felt good with him and ready for something interesting."

Zander had been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in 2014. He died in Edinburgh listening to one of his favourites, Woody Guthrie. As Wedderburn's children said, "It was a good end to a good life. He was an individualist with a wonky sense of humour and a sometimes unnerving mischievous streak." He was devoted to his family.

Over the years, I have much enjoyed sharing good times with him and B in the UK and in Australia. I was fortunate to catch up with Zander at his home a few months ago. Although he was then ailing, he was still excellent company, as ever. He was a proud Scot and an internationalist. He is survived by four children: Chris, Pete, Joanna, Rebecca and eight grandchildren.

Alexander Allan Innes Wedderburn, psychologist, born in Edinburgh 9 May 1935; died in Edinburgh 23 February 2017.