Obituaries - W

Obituaries - W

Peter Martin Brabazon Walker

Peter Walker had a distinguished career within the University of Edinburgh and also with the Medical Research Council, becoming the founding Director of a MRC unit in Edinburgh which developed pioneering work in molecular biology. He was born in Kenya in 1922, where his parents were coffee farmers. Sent to Britain for education, he was effectively brought up by his grandparents, leaving school just at the outbreak of WW2. University had to be postponed and he joined Smith’s Aircraft Instruments as an apprentice. This was a reserved occupation during the war and Walker became a highly skilled craftsman toolmaker; these skills and a love of fine machinery remained throughout his life. They were put to great effect both in his scientific career and for another life-long enthusiasm, railways and their reconstruction in model form. Read More about Read More about Peter Martin Brabazon Walker

Robert Walmsley

Robert Walmsley, Emeritus Professor of Anatomy, University of St Andrews, died in Kirkcaldy on August 24 1998. He was born in Greenock on August 24 1906 and following a distinguished record as an undergraduate in the University of Edinburgh, he was appointed a demonstrator in Anatomy with J C Brash as Professor and E B Jamieson as Senior Lecturer. He carried out studies on the vertebral column and the knee joint with John Bruce (later Sir John Bruce), Professor of Surgery in Edinburgh, with whom he was associated in the production of three editions of a textbook of Surgical Anatomy. His work on the vascular system of the whale, conducted at the Carnegie Institute of Embryology in Baltimore, USA, was the subject of his thesis for the MD of Edinburgh University which was awarded with honours and gold medal in 1937. He joined a Territorial Army RAMC Unit in 1938, spent the greater part of the Second World War in the Middle East as a Pathologist with the rank of Major and was subsequently awarded the Territorial Decoration. In 1945 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Read More about Robert Walmsley

Patrick (Peter) Gerard Walsh

Peter Walsh, the name by which, ever since his boyhood, he was always known, held the Chair of Humanity (Latin) in the University of Glasgow from 1972 to his retirement in 1993. He was elected FRSE in 1983, a relatively early recognition of his significant contribution to advancing and expanding research in Classics and particularly in the then rather rare areas of renaissance and early modern Latin. Born and brought up in Accrington, Lancashire, as one of nine children in a working-class family, his boyhood, as he was to describe it later, was chiefly comprised of two elements: firstly religion; as a result of his experiences on the Somme Peter’s father had become a devout Catholic, and three of Peter’s siblings were to become nuns, and two of them priests. The other element was backstreet football. For the whole of his life he remained devoted to both religion and sport (though the football probably ceased to be of the backstreet variety). Cricket was to bcome his major sporting interest, and in his 80s he continued to play tennis once or twice a week. Read more about Peter Walsh

Ewart Kendall Walton

Ken Walton, internationally-renown expert on turbidite sediments and Emeritus Professor of Geology at the University of St Andrews died on June 23rd, 2009 aged 84. Most of his professional career was spent as Professor of Geology at St Andrews University (1968-1988) where he also served as Master of the United College (1972-1976). A hallmark of Ken’s life was a common humanity that clearly stemmed from his working class roots in a northern mining community. He was responsive when academic institutions the world over were being challenged in the late 1960s and early 70s by newlyconfident student communities, and contributed significantly to modernising St Andrews, then a very traditional university uneasy with departures from the status quo. Read More about Ewart Kendall Walton

Andrew Rodger Waterston

Rodger Waterston was born on 30 March 1912, at Ollaberry, Shetland. He died on 12 July 1996, in Edinburgh, aged 84. With his death Scotland has lost one of its last great all-round scholar naturalists - a distinguished figure, competent and confident to study and publish on the taxonomy and field biology of almost any group of the animal kingdom. Through the breadth of his interests in entomology, malacology and the study of the Scottish fauna, together with a bountiful helpfulness and a persistent and determined backing of what he believed to be worthwhile, Rodger was a strong stimulus behind the flowering of much that was good in the study and interpretation of zoology in Scotland over more than half a century. It was in recognition of this that in 1982 he was awarded the Neill Prize Medal by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, of which he had been a Fellow since 1946. Read More about Andrew Rodger Waterston

Donald Elmslie Robertson Watt

To know medieval Scotland, fitting together the tessera which have survived and sketching the outlines of what is missing to show them in a possible whole picture, engaged the energies of a generation of scholars in our post-1945 universities; they benefited from expansion in the older universities, and saw the history of Scotland find a respected place in teaching. Their day is past, but their work speaks for them, and for no-one more firmly and lastingly than for Donald Watt. His career from 1953, apart from one year at Columbia University, New York, was spent in the new Medieval History department of St Andrews University, where he was a lively teacher with an appreciative student following, though discourse on medieval Europe and a specialist treatment of Edward I gave little scope for discussing his research interests. He was active in university affairs after the 1966 act made more room for lecturers on Senate and Court, in no way a radical, but constructively firm in a way which did not always fit the aims of Principal Watson. In 1977 his scholarship was recognised there by the conferment of a personal chair in Scottish Church History. His home was a warm place in which his wife, Helen, and their two daughters balanced his absences in the study with his concern for family life. They shared a love of hill-walking, and of highland dancing, while he could turn a mean spadeful in the vegetable garden. Read More about Donald Emslie Robertson Watt

Paul Egerton Weatherley

Paul Egerton Weatherley died on 8 August 2001. He was Regius Professor of Botany in the University of Aberdeen from 1959 to 1981 and was elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1960, and to the Royal Society of London in 1973. He was one of the foremost plant scientists of his generation, and he significantly advanced our understanding of plant water relations, and the movement of water and solutes in plants. Paul Weatherley was born in 1917 in Leicester. As a schoolboy he was fascinated by science, and soon displayed the flair for ingenious experimentation which characterised his professional life. In 1936 he won an open scholarship in Natural Science at Keble College, Oxford, where he read Botany. After graduation he joined the Colonial Service and took the Diploma course at the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture in Trinidad. From there he was given a post in the Uganda Protectorate, but on the way to Uganda his ship was torpedoed off the west coast of Africa and Paul spent 18 hours in a lifeboat before making his way ashore. He ended up on a research station at Serere in Eastern Uganda, where he was joined by Margaret his wife. She was the daughter of a prominent Aberdeenshire farmer, and their marriage was the start of an association with North-East Scotland which was to last for the rest of his life. Read More about Paul Egerton Weatherley

Professor Geoffrey Webb

Geoff Webb was born on the 15th June 1938 in the small village of Heather in deepest Leicestershire. He attended school in Ashby before going to the University of Hull to undertake his undergraduate studies in Chemistry, where he was awarded a B.Sc. in 1959. At this point Geoff explored two career options, teaching and research, themes that would be repeated throughout his career. In 1959/1960 Geoff held a teaching position as Science Master at Greatfield High School in Hull and combined this with part-time research with Professor Geoffrey Bond. It is a testament to Geoff’s research skills that this work was published in the Journal of the Chemical Society and so it was no surprise that, by the end of the year, the decision was made and Geoff joined Geoff Bond to study for a Ph.D. in the area of catalytic hydrogenation using ruthenium and osmium catalysts. Geoff’s love for sport also began to blossom during his time at Hull and he was active in both University cricket and football. However his love of sport was not the only thing to blossom because it was here he met and married Linda. Read More about Geoffrey Webb

Victor Weisskopf

The rise of Nazism brought horror, humiliation, death and torture to so many free-thinking people, to Jews and to other minorities. There were some lucky ones, like the Weisskopf family, Viennese medical intellectuals, who were able to escape, thanks to organisation such as the University in Exile in New York.
Victor Weisskopf was born and brought up in Austria in the spirit of German culture. He said that he considered his transfer from Europe to the United States as an invaluable source of intellectual enrichment. The family’s forced emigration, in which they passed through Denmark, France and Britain, was an opening of a new world in many senses “I often think,” wrote Weisskopf, “of how narrow my thinking would have been had I lived as a German or Austrian professor all my life, as I had expected to do.” Doubtless, the same breadth of experience enhanced Weisskopf’s physicist friends, such as Enrico Fermi, Eugene Wigner, John von Neumann, Edward Teller and Leo Szilard, whom Weisskopf dubbed “an intellectual bumblebee”. Read more about Victor Weisskopf.  First published by The Independent. Reproduced with permission from The Independent

Thomas Summers West

Tom West was one of the most brilliant and prolific analytical chemists of his generation and enjoyed an outstanding international reputation for the many advances that he made in this field. Working first in the University of Birmingham he pioneered a wide range of innovative developments in chemical analysis using atomic and molecular spectroscopic techniques. Later in Imperial College he formed and led a team of young and enthusiastic analytical chemists, some of whom had come with him from Birmingham, creating a vibrant centre of excellence that was widely recognized as being at the leading edge in this area of science. Read more about Thomas Summers West

Thomas Stanley Westoll

Stanley Westoll died on l9th September 1995 in Newcastle upon Tyne, the city in which he spent much of his working life. He was born on the 3rd July 1912 in West Hartlepool. After his early education there at the grammar school, he became a student in Armstrong College (later King’s College in the University of Durham and then the University of Newcastle upon Tyne) at the age of 17 as the holder of an Open Entrance Scholarship. Thus began a brilliant academic career. He graduated with First Class Honours in geology (with subsidiary metallurgy and zoology) in 1932 and received his PhD in 1934 for his research on the Permian fishes of England. His immediate post-doctoral studies, supported by a DSIR Senior Research Award, brought him under the influence and guidance of D M S Watson, then the Jodrell Professor of Zoology at University College, London. His Research Award allowed him to travel widely in Europe and North America and was a considerable support to his extensive and impressive flourishing research on fossil fishes, research which was to remain central in his wide range of interests throughout the remainder of his life. He was awarded an 1851 Exhibition Research Fellowship in 1937 which he had to relinquish in the same year on his appointment to a Lectureship in Geology at the University of Aberdeen. In 1948 he was appointed to the J B Simpson Chair of Geology at King’s College, Newcastle, where he was to remain as Head of Department for 29 years, a long stint! After his retirement in 1977, his association with the University of Newcastle continued: he became a Leverhulme Emeritus Research Fellow and was Chairman of Convocation for 10 years. Read More about Thomas Stanley Westoll

Lionel Gordon Whitby

Born in London on 18 July 1926, Gordon Whitby was nurtured in a distinguished academic family. His father, Sir Lionel Whitby, was Professor of Physics and Master of Downing College, Cambridge. His mother, Ethel, was described by a close family friend, Lord Butterfield of Stechford, as a “formidable lady” in her role as supporter and helpmate to Sir Lionel during their sojourn in Cambridge. Gordon’s education was exclusive and orthodox: Preparatory School (Sherborne), Eton College, and Cambridge University (King’s College). He read Natural Sciences at Cambridge and obtained a First Class Honours in both parts I and II of the Tripos. He remained as a postgraduate in Cambridge, completed a PhD and prepared for entry into medical school. He graduated MBBS in 1956 from the Middlesex Hospital Medical School. His formal training period in Chemical Pathology began in 1958 during which he spent a year with Dr J Axelrod in the National Institute of Health, Bethesda studying catecholamine metabolism. In 1961 he returned to Cambridge as University Biochemist, working at Addenbrookes Hospital and in 1963, some seven years after graduating, he was appointed the first Professor of Clinical Chemistry at Edinburgh University, a position he enjoyed until retirement in 1991 and from which he made major contributions to Scottish Medicine and Academia. Read More about Lionel Gordon Whitby

David Whitteridge

David Whitteridge was born in Croydon on 22 June 1912 and died in Oxford on 15 June 1994. He made a deep impression on all he met. He was a strikingly handsome and civilised man, whose formidable and critical intellect was tempered by grace and compassion. His academic career began in 1931 when he came up from Whitgift School to read medicine at Magdalen College, Oxford. It was to the good fortune of physiology that after graduating with a first-class honours degree in 1934, Sir Charles Sherrington, then the Waynflete Professor of Physiology in Oxford, appointed him to a departmental demonstratorship. His first close encounter with the physiology of the cerebral cortex was early in 1935, when he moved into Sherrington's own laboratory and started working for a BSc degree (now called an MSc) supervised by J C 'Jack' Eccles. He assisted Sherrington in his last demonstration of the map of movements elicited by 'faradisation' of the motor cortex of a monkey. He also watched Sherrington cutting histological sections of the spinal cord and perhaps this experience was the inspiration for his aphorism: "physiology equals anatomy plus thought". The paper on synaptic transmission that resulted from his BSc research, published in the Journal of Physiology in 1937, was the first in an extended series of rich contributions to physiology that continued throughout his life. Read More about David Whitteridge

Peter Albert Laing Wight

Peter Wight was born on 3 July 1924 in Leeds. His mother died when he was three and he spent his early childhood in Australia with his grandmother. Just before the Second World War, when he was 14 years old, he returned to England to board at Fulneck Moravian School in Pudsey in Yorkshire. During the school holidays he stayed with his aunt in Buckden where he was given the freedom of the local farms. He showed great interest in all things rural and especially in the running of the farm and the livestock. Those were happy times for him and he looked back on them with pleasure, for it was there, he always maintained, that his love for animals really developed. In 1942 he entered the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College (as it then was) where he registered for the combined course, that is to say, the Diploma of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and a BSc of the University of Edinburgh. His passage through the College was not very eventful and at that time he showed no particular predilection for Pathology which was later to become his chosen field of work. He graduated MRCVS, BSc (Vet.Sci.) in 1948 and elected to go into general practice, as did most of his colleagues. He was offered an assistantship in a small animal practice in Stockton, but he stayed there only a short time as he preferred working with large animals. He was not long in finding another post, this time in a farm practice as assistant to Mr Parkinson in Sedbergh, Yorkshire. There he worked mainly with cattle and he stayed for about three years. In the meantime, he had met Kathleen Best, the daughter of the Head Librarian in Middlesbrough, whom he married on 14 September 1949. Read More about Peter Albert Laing Wight

Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins

Maurice Wilkins, who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Francis Crick and James Watson, died in London on 5th October, 2004. He was a major player in one of the greatest scientific discoveries of the 20th Century, the discovery of the structure of DNA. Wilkins was born in Pongoroa New Zealand on 15th December 1916, where his parents had moved from Dublin. His father was a doctor who became New Zealand Director of School Hygiene. The family moved to England when Maurice was six years old and he was educated at King Edward’s School, Birmingham. As a child he was interested in science and, in a workshop built by his father, he developed technical and experimental skills, particularly in telescope construction. He studied Natural Sciences at St John’s College, Cambridge, which had many distinguished members of staff. He said that he was especially fortunate in his first year to receive one hour a week of the undivided attention of his supervisor, Marcus Oliphant, who was then Ernest Rutherford’s deputy. In his second year his supervisor was John Cockroft. Read More about Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins

Christopher David Wicks Wilkinson

Chris Wilkinson was the father of nanotechnology at the University of Glasgow. His great interest in ‘making things’ and his insatiable curiosity across a broad range of science led to major advances in nanoelectronics, cell engineering and nanomagnetism. In the process, he became one of the most cited engineers in Scotland. Learn more about Chris Wilkinson

Sir Alwyn Williams

Sir Alwyn was President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh from 1985 to 1988 and his achievements in that role have been of lasting benefit to the Society. The purchase of the Society’s fine premises, after tortuous negotiations, provided a secure base for subsequent developments of the Society and gave impetus to its wider recognition as Scotland’s National Academy of Science and Letters. This process was also much helped by Sir Alwyn being a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and Member of the Royal Irish Academy. As such, he was particularly well placed to foster much closer links with these sister Academies and the first tripartite meeting of their Presidents took place at RSE. This set the scene for continuing excellent relations based on a clear understanding of the complementary role of the RSE in relation to the other leading national academies of Britain and Ireland. Read More about Sir Alwyn Williams

Herbert Rees Wilson

On a circular plaque just inside the main entrance to King’s College on the Strand in London there are the names of five scientists and the inscription says “DNA X-ray diffraction studies 1953”. One of these names is that of Herbert Rees Wilson who was born on 28th January 1929 on his grandfather's farm in Nefyn on the Llyn peninsula in north Wales. His father, Thomas, was a ship's captain, and his mother Jennie was staying with her parents because her husband was away at sea for long periods. When Herbert's brother John was born, the family moved into their own house, Summer Hill, in the town. Herbert was educated at Nefyn school, Pwllheli Grammar School and UCNW (University College of North Wales) Bangor, where he was awarded a first class honours BSc in Physics in 1949, and a PhD in 1952. His PhD work involved using X-ray diffraction techniques under the supervision of Prof. Edwin A. Owen, the title of his thesis being the Effect of cold-work on metals at ordinary temperatures. Read More about Herbert Rees Wilson

John Tuzo Wilson

John Tuzo Wilson, born in Ottawa on 24 October 1908, was one of the most outstanding and prolific Earth Scientists of this century. He died in Toronto on 15 April 1993, aged 84. His exposure to geology and to exploration began early in life: during school holidays he worked as a geological field assistant in remote parts of Canada and the USA. He went on to study physics, maths and geology at Trinity College, Ottawa, and became the first graduate in geophysics in 1930. He then won a scholarship to Cambridge where he took a BA in 1932, and went on to take his PhD in geology at Princeton in 1936. His first job was with the Geological Survey of Canada. His extensive field trips to the North-West Territories combined geological mapping with the adventure of exploration which he loved. During these years he became interested in the large scale structure of mountain ranges, and began to think about them from a global perspective. This approach was to become a characteristic of his later fundamental contributions to geology. Read More about John Tuzo Wilson

Peter Northcote Wilson

Peter Wilson was elected a Fellow of the Society in 1987, and by 1992 was serving on Council as Secretary to Meetings. He excelled in this role because his open, warm personality was always able to put even the most nervous of lecturers at ease. A vote of thanks by Peter was always a tour de force, tantalisingly demonstrating his eloquent gifts as a public speaker. But he was also an adept committee man and was therefore a popular choice to succeed Professor Bruce Proudfoot as General Secretary in 1996. This demanding role showed him at his best, and he served for 5 years under two Presidents; Professor Malcolm Jeeves and Sir William Stewart. The start of his period as General Secretary was particularly testing, involving the challenge of renovating the premises at 26 George Street, then recently acquired from Commercial Union. Along with the Treasurer, Sir Lewis Robertson, Peter and Malcolm Jeeves made an inspiring triumvirate: it was business as usual whilst the complex planning and fundraising to realise the potential of the new premises took place. It was entirely fitting that Peter had a key role in the opening by HRH The Princess Royal in February 1999 of the enlarged and renovated premises. The building work completed, Peter again took a lead role in helping its then President, Sir William Stewart, reshape the Society, before handing over the reins as General Secretary in 2001 to Professor Andrew Miller. Read More about Peter Northcote Wilson

Thomas Wilson

The latest Register of Members of the Royal Economic Society conveys the information that a T Wilson, BA PhD, reported his ‘Current Position’ as being ‘Retired’. Such modesty disguises Tom Wilson’s standing as the holder of the highly prestigious Adam Smith Chair of Political Economy at Glasgow University from 1958 to 1982. Certainly Glasgow regarded Wilson’s position as one of particular merit and importance and he and his family lived in one of the larger Professors’ houses in University Square. If Wilson was the last holder of the Chair who preserved some of the patriarchal character consonant with this high regard for professorial status, he nevertheless commanded the respect and affection of his staff and colleagues and listened to and responded to their views on how the affairs of the department should be conducted. Read More about Thomas Wilson

William Witte

William Witte, the distinguished first Professor of German in the University of Aberdeen, who was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1978, died on 22 September 1992. He was born on 18 February 1907 in Bratislava, which was at that time known as Pressburg and was in the Hungarian half of the old Dual Monarchy. (It later became part of Czechoslovakia, and is now the capital of Slovakia.) Early childhood in Austria and Poland was followed by schooling in Germany and study at the Universities of Munich, Berlin, and Breslau, culminating in the award of a doctorate in Economics (Dr rer pol) by the University of Breslau (then in Germany, now in Poland) in 1930. This international background, combined with his training in economics, gave him an unusual breadth of understanding which informed his subsequent work in German language and literature. Read More about William Witte

Hamish Christopher Swan Wood

Hamish Wood, former Professor of Organic Chemistry and Vice Principal of the University of Strathclyde died on 3rd July 2009 after a long illness. Hamish hailed from Hawick where his father, Joseph Wood, ran one of the first mail-order knitwear firms. He inherited his teaching gene from his mother, Robina Baptie, who was a teacher and headmistress and perhaps his inventiveness gene from his greatgrandfather, James Swan, who was reputedly the inventor of the screw propeller. Read more about Hamish Wood.

David Grainger Marcus Wood-Gush

David Wood-Gush who died suddenly, on 1st December 1992 in London, when just past his 70th birthday following a heart attack, was a man of remarkable abilities and achievements. He was internationally known for his contributions to animal welfare, having brought to this contentious field a rational approach based upon his leadership in research on the behaviour of domestic animals. His influence in science, as in all aspects of his life, was greatly augmented by the warmth of his personality and he leaves friends all over the world. He was born, on 20th November 1922, in the Transkei region of South Africa into an old Quaker family which emigrated from Britain in 1820. His father was a magistrate and a man of radical views for his day. He went away to school in Grahamstown after which, when still in his teens at the outbreak of war, he began six years in the South African Air Force. He served in the North African campaign where he lost his left hand following botched medical care after a relatively minor accident. The manner in which he overcame this disability and the stoicism with which he coped all his life with intractable and increasing pain from a 'phantom limb' made a deep impression on all who knew him well. Read More about David Grainger Marcus Wood-Gush

Edward Maitland Wright

Sir Edward's working life was full and long. He supported himself from the age of 14 until he retired as Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen at the age of 70. He had been elected to the Chair of Mathematics there at the early age of 29. While under his guidance as Principal, the university went through a vigorous expansion with many new buildings and new appointments. He had enormous affection for Aberdeen, both the city and its ancient university. When he retired he stayed on in Aberdeen, until at the age of 90, he left to live with his son in Berkshire. He died peacefully a few days before his 99th birthday and is buried in Oxford. He particularly enjoyed the company of his grandchildren, Jane, Lucy, Vicky and Edward and was delighted when he became a great-grandfather. Read more about Sir Edward Wright. First published in Bull. London Math. Soc. 39 (2007) 857-865. and reproduced by kind permission of the London Mathematical Society.

Ronald William Vernon Selby Wright

The Very Rev Dr Ronald W V Selby Wright (always known as Ronnie), Minister Emeritus of the Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh, was born in Glasgow on June 12, 1908, the son of Vernon O Wright and Anna Gilberta Selby, and died peacefully on October 24, 1995 seated in his armchair at his home, the Queen’s House, Moray Place, Edinburgh. He was educated at Edinburgh Academy and Melville College (then called The Edinburgh Institution, where he became Captain of Rugby), graduated in Arts from Edinburgh University where he was deeply influenced by Alfred Edward Taylor, the devout Professor of Moral Philosophy, and went on to study theology at New College under the great Hugh Ross Mackintosh to whom he became deeply attached. During his student years in Edinburgh, 1929-36, he was a cadet officer, The Royal Scots, student assistant at St Giles’ Cathedral, and Warden of St Giles’ Boys’ Club. Although he was a close friend of George McLeod, he never became a member of the lona Community. Read More about Ronald William Vernon Selby Wright

Vero Copner Wynne-Edwards

Vero Wynne-Edwards, “Wynne” to his academic friends, was one of this century’s greatest scientific naturalists and original thinkers on population regulation in animals. The book for which he will always be remembered is Animal Dispersion in relation to Social Behaviour (1962) which was probably the most controversial to appear in biology in the sixties and seventies. At 650 pages it was the scholarly result of a life-long consideration of the processes limiting animal numbers. In it he proposed that animals collaborate socially for the benefit of the group, that they compete for territory and status rather than for food, with the losers patiently accepting their lot; and that animals are not, as Darwin supposed, always striving to increase their numbers but are instead programmed to regulate them. The mechanisms that prevent animals overexploiting their resources include social displays, territorial behaviour and communal roosting, which evolved by group selection. In Wynne-Edwards’ view, group selection operates by differential survival of populations. Those populations which showed self-restraint in reproduction and exploitation of resources, survived longer than more profligate groups, so that self-regulation of population size developed during the course of evolution. This ran counter to the conventional Darwinian view of natural selection which operates by differential survival of individuals. Read More about Vero Copner Wynne-Edwards

 

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