Derek Burton

September 13, 1935 to October 16, 2020


Dr. Derek Burton, Professor Emeritus of Biology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, died on Friday, October 16th, following unexpected post-surgical problems. Derek was an enthusiastic teacher and was deeply involved in research. He was particularly proud of his recent Oxford University Press publication, “Essential Fish Biology,” co-written with his wife, Dr. Margaret Burton. His family (wife Margaret, sons Christopher and David, and daughter Katie), will miss him profoundly, and remember his wide-ranging interests, including music (opera!), and travel (Brazil, India, and New Zealand are just a few places treasured in memory). We cannot yet contemplate a public celebration of his life but wish to thank all those people who made our life in Newfoundland, since 1971, such a pleasant experience.



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Dear David, Chris, Katie and Margaret, I’m so sorry to hear about Derek’s death. Please accept my condolences, I my thoughts are with you all.

Derek: a tribute

An early memory of Derek is being taken to a film of Der Rosenkavalier. I was baffled and bewildered – but then I was having a teenage problem with incipient myopia. Now, thanks to Derek, I am more of an Alpine Symphony person!

Last year, Irene and I were able to renew our acquaintance with Derek, both in Kent and Suffolk. His enthusiasm was quite undimmed, food and drink included; his stories uncurtailed. It was a great pleasure to be able to celebrate his birthday at the Four Horseshoes in Thornham Magna – where else?

So, apart from his evident success and delight in his research, we shall remember Derek for his appreciation of everyday things. Also for his kindnesses and his clear regard and affection for Margaret, Chris, David and Katie.

Derek had legendary patience. He still had a lot to give, so recent months have unfolded as a complete tragedy for all of us: hence, it is very good to note the strong support given by those who are fortunate to be closer at hand than ourselves.

My sincere condolences to the Burton family. I have many fond memories of Dr. Burton coming to the General Office in the Science Building. at MUN.

Dear Margaret: I was saddened to learn of Derek’s passing. We all will miss him. On a personal level, I respected him for his scholarly accomplishments and for his appreciation of the finer things in life. You have my deepest sympathy for your loss.

I studied Biology with Dr. Burton during my first year at Memorial. I appreciated his warmth, compassion, and instructional excellence. Last year, almost 40 years later, I was fortunate to see him again. In our exchange, he spoke excitedly of the research in which he and his wife were engaged and I caught a glimpse of the teacher I had admired all those years ago. I remain grateful for Dr. Burton’s openness and dedication and the example he was to all of us who studied with him.

Dear Margaret and family, I am so sorry and saddened to learn of Derek’s passing. He was always so energized about his research and teaching, and also asked me many questions about my work. In my early years at the Marine Lab, his presence was calm, smiling, and collegial. I have such fond memories of the special spirit he brought to the lab. May he rest in peace, and may his memory be a blessing.

So sad to hear of Derek’s passing. Our condolences to Margaret and the rest of the family. We always enjoyed Derek’s chats about research and his positive contributions to the department over many years.

Margaret and family., we are so sorry to hear of Derek’s passing. We both have very fond memories of Derek during his time in Biology. Our deepest condolences to you and your family. May your wonderful memories help you through the difficult days ahead. Rest in peace Derek.

Dear Margaret (and family). I am very sorry to hear of Derek’s passing. It is heart warming to read the messages about his contributions as a teacher and his broad and passionate interests. I will look forward to reading the book the two of you recently wrote together. Barb Neis.

Dear Margaret (and family), I am sad to hear this news. Derek was always such a cheerful, positive, and constructive voice on any research question. As you both were, as when you helped me identify cupulae and free neuromasts in the larval fish I was working with. My thanks to Derek for his enthusiasm, and may many happy memories travel with him, as surely they will.

I have wonderful memories of spring 2005 in Harlow with the Burtons as an undergraduate student. Dr. Burton was a wonderful witty man who was keen to highlight some of his old stomping grounds in London and I treasure the experience.

My sincerest condolences to Dr. Burton and family, may his memory be a blessing.

My sincere condolences. Jim Hiller

Such sad news to hear of Derek’s passing. My thoughts are with Margaret and family. I have many fond memories of his time spent with our Biology students at Harlow Campus, may he rest in peace.

I was fortunate to have Dr. Burton as a professor during my undergrad studies in biology. He was one of my favorite professors, supportive, engaging and a great sense of humor. My condolences to Dr. Burtons families and friends.

I have great memories of the 1996 CSZ meeting in St. John’s and I owe thanks to Dr. Burton for being part of the organization of this most successful meeting in beautiful Newfoundland.
I am sadden to hear about the passing of Dr. Burton.
My sincere condolences to all the family.
André L Martel

I have great memories of the 1996 CSZ meeting in St. John’s and I owe thanks to Dr. Burton for being part of the organization of this most successful meeting in beautiful Newfoundland.
I am sadden to hear about the passing of Dr. Burton.
My sincere condolences to all the family.
André L Martel

Margaret and Family
Terribly saddened by the news of Derek’s passing. He was a gentleman and a scholar. May he rest in peace.

My sincere condolences to Margaret and Family. I worked at the MSRL/OSC with Dr Burton. He was a very kind and sincere gentleman. May he Rest In Peace.

Margaret and Family,
I am very sad to hear of Derek’s passing. My deepest condolences to you and your family. He was a great gentleman.

Dear Margaret and Family:
I am saddened to learn, just now, of Derek’s passing. Although I and my family left Newfoundland 30 years ago, my memories of Derek are vivid and heartwarming. Please know that our thoughts are with you during this difficult time.

Dear Margaret, sincere condolences to you and your family. Thinking of you and your family at this sad and difficult time.

Dear Margaret, I was so sorry to learn of Derek’s passing my condolences to you and your family. I always enjoyed Derek’s company both professional and socially. I shall miss our long conversations on our mutual interest in opera. I also learned a great deal about fish chromatophores and his eagerness to share his latest discoveries. He was so genuinely passionate about this work. I also was always impressed with his commitment to teaching experimental science especially in the early days at MUN when things were very descriptive. It must have been very gratifying him (and you) to see your book in print as well. He was a fine scientist and a thorough nice human being. I will miss him. Sincerely, Alan.

My thoughts and prayers are with you all during this difficult time. I have many pleasant and fond memories of Dr. Derek Burton during his professional career at the Marine Lab.

Rest in peace Dr. D. Burton.

D. Boyce

So sorry to hear of Derek’s passing, Margaret. I always was impressed with his strong devotion to the needs of students. He often discussed opera with me and I was amazed at his love and fascination with it. It was a pleasure working with Derek and I learned much from our conversations about pensions and retirement.

So sorry about Derek’s passing. He was always so passionate about his research and we spent a lot of time talking while he still conducted research at the Ocean Sciences Centre. Condolences to Margaret and the family.

Dear David and Chris

I just learned from my mother about the death of your dad and want you to know I’m thinking about you both and am sad for your loss.. I remember your dad from my undergraduate days at MUN. He was always very kind.

Dear Margaret and family:
I shall always remember how much Derek enjoyed the Metropolitan Opera performances when they were broadcast at the local cinema. It was always great fun to discuss the performance with him afterwards. My thoughts are with you all during this difficult time.
With sincere sympathy,

Paul Rice

Sincere condolences to the Burton family on their loss. Marilyn and I loved our interaction with Derek and Margaret in both the Academic setting and social gatherings at the retirees functions the last number of years. We both always looked forward to listening to anecdotes of his experiences . He was such a great storyteller. We hope all of the well wishes provide some solace to the family in these difficult times.

Hi Chris and David, I’m really sorry to hear about the death of your father. I just want to say that I’m thinking of you both and hope that you, your mother and sister are able to be blessed by warm memories of your dad.

Sorry to hear about passing of Derek Burton.. My deepest condolences to Margaret and to all his family. It was a pleasure to talk with him at Memorial about science and also to meet him at the cinema theater and discuss opera performances. This is unforgettable!

Thinking of the Burton family at this time. In 2005, I studied two Biology courses offered by Derek and Margaret at Harlow and it was such an incredible experience. Dr. Burton was an excellent teacher and I reflect on the Harlow experience fondly. My sincere condolences at this time.

Thinking of Margaret, Chris, David and Katie at this very sad time. Words can never express my sorrow on hearing the news of the passing of Derek. It was because of you both, that I was given the opportunity to have a wonderful life in Canada. and to be a part of your family. You gave me so many opportunities that I otherwise would never have had., I am eternally grateful to you both.

I’ll never forget your kindness, generosity and love.

Dear Margaret,
Condolences to you and your family. Derek was one of my favourite professors to offer student laboratories with, he truly enjoyed labs and spent many hours in active discussions with the students. His guidance and kindness in helping me design student laboratory experiments was always appreciated and will always be remembered . A wonderful teacher and scientist!
Carol Harding

Dear Margaret & Family,
Please accept our sincere condolences.
Derek was a man who treated everyone with respect and kindness & was friendly to everyone.
His knowledge and devotion to his chosen field was evident to all.
He will be missed by many but none more than his devoted wife and children.
RIP Derek.
Pat Garrett & Paul Hynes

Dear Margaret:

I was sorry to hear of Derek’s passing; his scholarship and enthusiasm added a great deal to the Department and the University. Derek was always a pleasure to talk to whether about biology or his many other interests. He will be missed, but his contributions will live on. All my best to you at this difficult time.

Dear Margaret,
I was so sad to learn of Derek’s passing. What a wonderful human being he was. I know you and your children are grieving his loss, and I do hope that in some small way the many memories you share and the love from friends and family can ease that pain somewhat. Take good care.

Dear Margaret. I am so saddened to learn of Derek’s passing. You are both very very fondly remembered and acknowledged as such important influences in many lives, mine included. I know I would have never chosen the path I have if it weren’t for you both having such a wonderful spirit in teaching and research. You are both frequently mentioned in my conversations and always with respect and fondness. I hope that your many wonderful memories together help to ease your grief. Take very good care of yourself. Sending you love and compassion at this sad and difficult time.

My condolence to the family

Dear Margaret
I was very sad hearing the news. I will miss Derek’s enthusiasm and immeasurable knowledge on fish biology and science. I will always remember the warm welcome you and Derek gave me when I first arrived in Newfoundland and your precious support and advice, and the wonderful times we had in Harlow.

Thinking of the Burton family after the passing of Derek. He taught me cell biology and was one of the most enthusiastic scientists I’ve ever met. He will be missed.

Dear Margaret,

Deepest sympathies from myself and Judith. Derek was a committed teacher and researcher, and a pleasure to work with over the years. It is fitting that he was able to see his last work come to fruition. He will be well remembered.

Dear Margaret and family. So saddened by the news of Derek’s passing. He was such a caring and passionate person about everything he set out to do. May you find comfort in all your cherished memories of him. May he rest in peace.

Dear Margaret,

I am so sorry to hear of Derek’s passing. I feel lucky to have experienced teaching at Harlow, an opportunity for our Biology students that you and Derek were very much a part of creating. My thoughts are with you and your family.

Dear Margaret,
Heartfelt condolences to you and your family. Derek was an earnest friend and colleague throughout our careers in the Biology Department and Marine Lab. I held him in the highest esteem for his sustained productive research output and his enthusiasm and expertise as a competent teacher with a heavy teaching load. He will be sadly missed, and fondly remembered.
Pat Dabinett

Dear Margaret and family.
I was saddened to hear of Derek’s passing. We know you are surrounded by the love and memories of family and friends. For me, Derek’s essence was his clear devotion and attention whether that was to his science, family or opera.

My condolences, Carolyn Emerson

To Margaret and family
My sincere condolences on hearing of Derek’s sudden passing.. I cannot imagine how you are all feeling right now but know that I am thinking of you and sending you my love and hugs! I hope it helps in some small way. Condolences.

Our deepest sympathy on Dereks passing.

Brian & Eileen Gray.

Margaret and Family,
My deepest sympathy on Derek’s passing. He was a friend and colleague who shared a love and interest in Science..
Rasul Khan