Ol was Head of the Department of Experimental Psychology from 2001 until his retirement in 2011, and remained an active and engaged emeritus member. In 2001, he was elected fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and was a fellow at Magdalen College, Oxford. In July 2012, he was elected as a Fellow of the British Academy for his contributions in the field of visual perception and its development in early childhood. He was also a Fellow of the Academia Europaea.
Ol’s research focused on the mechanisms of visual perception and their development in infancy and childhood, particularly spatial and motion vision. He is well known for proposing a specific mechanism for short-range visual motion (1974). In 1976, he established the Visual Development Unit with his wife, Janette Atkinson, initially in Cambridge and later in UCL and Oxford. The Unit pioneered work on contrast sensitivity, binocularity, orientation and motion processing in infancy, on refractive screening of infants, and on dorsal stream vulnerability as a feature of extra-striate visual processing in developmental disorders.
Matthew Rushworth, Head of Department, said, "First and foremost, I am sure that the thoughts of everyone in the Department of Experimental Psychology will be with his wife Jan Atkinson. Ol’s death, however, will affect a great many people. Over the last few days former students and colleagues of Ol’s, from over five decades, have written to explain how important Ol’s support for them was at crucial junctures in their careers.”
Brian Butterworth, Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychology at UCL, said, “He was an excellent HoD, a deep thinker, who thought through many of the difficult issues at that time, with help from Jan of course.”
Chris McManus, Professor of Psychology and Medical Education at UCL, also contacted us with these words of tribute: "I first encountered Ol as an excellent teacher in Cambridge in the 1970s, as an undergraduate, on a medical elective, and then while I was a postgraduate student. Ol's ability to be interested in almost all areas of psychology was an inspiration, and made him an excellent HoD at UCL. I particularly remember Ol for his staunch support.”