Victoria Braithwaite, Who Said Fish Feel Pain, Dies at 52

One of those scientists, Robert Arlinghaus, an expert on fish and fisheries with appointments at Humboldt University and the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, both in Berlin, said in an email that Dr. Braithwaite was “an outstanding fish behavior scientist,” but that “her work on pain I do not find convincing.”

Still, he and the other researchers noted in their report that people are morally responsible for justifying their use of fish, and for minimizing stress and other harm to the creatures.

Dr. Braithwaite had been appointed to head the Leibniz Institute when she received her cancer diagnosis.

Neuroscientists note that much is unknown about brain function, whether mammalian, avian, reptilian or piscine. Pain, too, remains mysterious, and highly subjective.

Carl Saab, a neuroscientist at Brown University, said that researchers are still seeking to identify measurable substances, or biomarkers, that are indications of pain. “What do we mean when we say a rat or a human has pain,” he asked, “and how to measure that pain objectively?”

Victoria Anne Braithwaite was born on July 19, 1967, in Halifax, Yorkshire, England, the sixth of seven children of Alan and June (Pickles Braithwaite. Her father was a textile executive, her mother a magistrate.

She studied zoology as both an undergraduate and graduate student at Oxford, where she wrote a doctoral dissertation on navigation by pigeons. She took a postdoctoral appointment at the University of Glasgow, where she began her work on cognition in fish.