Julian Vincent’s formal degrees are MA (zoology, University of Cambridge); PhD and DSc (insect hormones and cuticle, University of Sheffield). He is a Professional Member of the Institute of Materials, a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow (by invitation) of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. He is the Founding President of the International Society of Bionic Engineering.

He spent most of his research career in the Zoology Department at the University of Reading, studying the mechanical design of organisms, specializing in advanced non-linear fracture mechanics. This introduced him to the texture of food and a number of other topics. During this time he ran the Centre for Biomimetics, which he had started with Professor George Jeronimidis from the Department of Engineering in Reading.

In 2000 he was invited to a Professorship in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath: his remit was making the adaptive design of organisms available to engineering design and control. He retired in 2008.

Since then he has been developing an ontology that uses the evolutionary trade-offs of organisms to solve technical problems in novel ways. A website is available at Practical Biomimetics.

He has written and published 340 research papers, reviews and books and given hundreds of lectures around the world.

Loose Ends

Any piece of research throws up more questions than it answers. So long as the question that initiated the research is answered, a report can be rounded off and the remainder committed to the discussion (often with regret) as a sort of by-catch. Here are a few that were thrown back.
1) The wings of locusts and moths (and presumably many more) newly emerged from final-stage nymph or pupa expand autonomously. This implies that the resources are finite. Cyanide stops the process in an isolated wing. What is happening? Can it be useful?
2) The addition of up to 10% Zinc and/or Manganese in cuticle can greatly increase hardness (for cutting edges, etc). It’s associated with the tanning quinones. The counter ion is probably chloride. As a surface hardener for plastics it could be very successful. How can we do it?
3) Reciprocating ‘drills’ and saws like those found in symphytan and ichneumonoid wasps can have application in technology. Are they scaleable? What are their limits?
4) A wood analogue invented 50 years ago, the first biomimetic material, has outstanding performance, especially in energy absorption. Where and how could it be developed and applied?
Answers may be forthcoming, but I don’t know what they are!