This special volume of The Journal of Experimental Biologycelebrates the scientific contributions of Professor Simon H. P. Maddrell,with articles drawn from world leaders in the field of insect osmoregulation. It is thus fitting to describe Simon's career in a little detail.

For those who wondered about his initials, Simon Hugh Piper Maddrell was born in December 1937 in Birmingham, UK. His scientific career was outstanding from the start; as the Major Scholar of St Catharine's College, Cambridge University, he obtained first class Honours in Natural Sciences (together with the University Zoology prize) in 1959. He then stayed in the Zoology Department at Cambridge for a Ph.D. entitled the regulation of excretion in Rhodnius prolixus Stål' under the supervision of Sir Vincent Wigglesworth. His Ph.D. must be considered a success, as his first two papers were single-author letters to Nature. The topic of insect osmoregulation and its control has exercised him ever since.

After a postodoctoral spell in Dalhousie University, Canada, he returned to the UK to take up a research fellowship at Gonville and Caius College,Cambridge, and in 1968 joined John Treherne's ARC Unit of Invertebrate Chemistry & Physiology, also associated with the Cambridge University Zoology Department. This was a happy and productive time, and Simon was awarded the Scientific medal of the Zoological Society of London in its centenary year (1976) and became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1981. After John's death in 1990, the unit was dissolved, and Simon became an honorary reader in comparative physiology. He was promoted to Honorary Professor of Integrative Physiology in 2003.

Simon also has a long association with sport. As a Ph.D. student, he became the Cambridge University table tennis champion and has maintained a close association with the club ever since. He was awarded a half-blue for his representation at the University level. His father had been an English rugby international, and Simon bulked up his frame to become the maritime Universities of Canada, and then the Cambridgeshire county, shot-put champion. He briefly featured in the UK shot-put top 20 list. Until his hip started giving him grief, he played a mean round of golf, off a handicap of 6.

Simon is, of course, a great communicator. His Biology of Cells' lectures to the Zoology Department first-year students are extremely popular and successful. Moreover, as a result of buying a house in Italy, he has taught himself Italian with great enthusiasm and success – enjoying the phrases, the intricacy of the grammar and the chances to communicate precisely with his neighbours and surroundings. This year, he recorded 93% in his Italian A-level examination. Multo bene!

Simon's innate financial sense always told him that money is interesting,important and useful stuff. It was these skills that helped to build up successfully what we now know as The Company of Biologists. His intuition and his detailed daily knowledge of the money markets worldwide have also helped him in such matters as pricing the journals correctly for the forthcoming year, particularly for sales in the USA. This, in turn, involves accurately predicting the pound/dollar ratio some months ahead. Simon's flair has enabled the Company to enlarge its charitable donations in a wide range of projects.

Simon has always been a huge support and inspiration – and fun to work with. His financial skills and intuition have always stood him, together with those who worked with him, in good stead. His celebratory gusto is infectious and a huge joy to his friends and it spreads into all that he does. Simon does nothing by halves. He plants daffodils. He kisses each one before he plants it to give it a good start in life and, when they flower, he twists their necks so they all wear the approved prize-winning smile. Simon wins prizes.

The many scientists around the world who have worked with Simon will have been touched by his remarkable energy, his split-second timing that allows him to pack more appointments into a day than most people manage in a week, and his enthusiasm for everything he encounters. We hope some of this interest and enthusiasm is visible not only in his own contribution to this volume but also in the articles of those he has worked with and influenced.