Alec was born on 4th October 1930 in the City of London. After his early education at the Trinity School of John Whitgift in Croydon, Surry, he became a student at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge. He graduated in Zoology in 1953 and received his PhD in 1957 for research on an unusual temnospondyl amphibian from the Permian of Tanzania, collected by his supervisor Rex Parrington. The previous year Alec had been appointed as a Demonstrator in the Department of Zoology at the future University of Newcastle upon Tyne. He became Lecturer in Vertebrate Zoology in 1960 and Reader in 1972. Between1963-64 Alec was a Senior Fulbright Scholar and temporary Assistant Professor of Zoology at Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, Ohio, and in 1980 he enjoyed a six month position as Visiting Zoologist at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. After retirement in 1993 he was appointed to an Honorary Visiting Professorship at the University of Sunderland.