IN MEMORY of Professor Carole Hackney

The BSA is sad to announce the recent passing away of Professor Carole Hackney. Carole was an eminent auditory neuroscientist who made a huge contribution to the science of hearing. In 1997 she won the Thomas Simm Littler Prize for Contributions to Audiology. She was also the wife of Professor David Furness, Secretary of the BSA, and will be greatly missed by him and all who knew her.

Carole was born in Preston, Lancashire, on the 10th of May 1955. Within months she and her mother Mavis, a teacher, followed her father, Malcolm Walker, an RAF aircrew officer, to many different RAF bases, including Nicosia and Akrotiri in Cyprus, and also lived in several English counties. After two younger sisters, Janet and Katherine, were born, the family left service life in 1969, and settled in Kendal, Cumbria. Carole’s early years had thus accustomed her to adapting to travel and change, mixing with children of many different backgrounds and nationalities at her various schools. Family holidays were usually spent camping or caravanning, and she loved these outdoor adventures, showing a great interest in watching birds and animals. From Kendal High School, her outstanding academic results enabled her to enter Manchester University and gain a B.Sc with 1st class Honours in Genetics and Cell Biology, and then progress to a PhD in Cell Biology. She married Paul Hackney, whom she had met while they were both at school in Kendal, and then became a lecturer at Keele University. Paul and Carole had two sons, Sam in 1986 and Peter in 1991.

At Keele, Carole employed Dave Furness as her first post-doctoral researcher and together they established collaborative scientific careers. As Carole developed her career, she first set up an electron microscope unit and then became head of Department of Communication and Neuroscience. Soon after, she became head of School when the Departments of Biological Sciences and Communication and Neuroscience were merged to form the new School of Life Sciences. Despite the administrative distractions her research career continued to flourish and she published major research articles and chapters in books, some with Dave and some independently. During this productive time, Carole visited many countries for scientific conferences and research, some highlights including Czechoslovakia (before the fall of the Eastern Bloc), Norway, and Japan. During this time, she and her husband Paul enjoyed shared interests and happy times, holidaying on Mull, bird-watching, and rehabilitating injured birds of prey such as barn owls, buzzards and kestrels, among other birds and animals. But their lives and careers diverged and they were divorced, although they continued to cooperate amicably in the education and welfare of their two sons. She retained the surname Hackney by which she had become well known in her scientific career.

At this difficult time in her life, Carole decided it was time to seek new pastures and so moved to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to focus on research with colleagues and friends in the US. After a time, however, concerns for her family persuaded her to return to the UK where she briefly held a part time post at Keele once more. Then the possibility of a move to Cambridge University arose and she joined the Department of Anatomy as a lecturer. There, she found it difficult to find new friends, and struggled with depression and alcohol dependence, so Dave began to travel down to visit her on a regular basis and they decided to marry in 2008. Carole left her job and returned to South Cheshire to be with Dave and they married in August, shortly after which they moved into Keele village.

Carole’s career then took a completely different turn. Although still retaining her academic interest and research activities with long term friends and collaborators, she decided to set herself up in business. With the arrival of an ultramicrotome (a piece of equipment needed to prepare samples for electron microscopy), given to her by an ex-colleague from Keele, she started a company called Advanced Imaging and Microscopy, and, with a little help from Dave, set up two electron microscopes of her own in the garage. Two years into this venture, Carole died in a tragic accident, an untimely passing, leaving her grieving husband and family. She was loved deeply and was not only a beautiful, intelligent and imaginative lady, but a scientist who has made significant contributions to our knowledge of hearing through her 65 research papers in journals, and many book chapters, including revisions of the inner ear chapter of Gray’s Anatomy. All who knew her were touched by her supportive, caring attitude, and the help she gave to many people in her career will never be forgotten. Goodbye to our dearest Carole.


Message from Prof Dave Furness, her husband

Thank you for your condolences and messages of sympathy. Carole’s funeral took place on 4th March 2015.

Dave Furness