Sir Richard Dearlove became the second MI6 chief to be named publicly, when he was appointed head of the secret intelligence service in 1999.
MI6 headquarters was attacked by dissident Irish republicans in 2000
Described as an intelligence "all rounder", his appointment was seen as a reflection of the agency's new post-Cold War priorities - fighting organised crime rather than spying on the Soviets.
Chosen by then Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, in consultation with the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, Sir Richard took the classic route into the espionage business.
Born in Cornwall on 23 January 1945, he was educated at the independent fee-paying Monkton Combe School near Bath.
After a year at Kent School in the United States, he went to Queen's College, Cambridge, a favourite recruiting ground for the intelligence agencies, where he was almost certainly "talent spotted".
He began his MI6 career in 1966 and two years later received his first overseas posting to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
After postings in Prague, Paris and Geneva, Sir Richard became head of MI6's Washington station in 1991.
He returned to the UK in 1993 as director of personnel and administration and became director of operations the following year.
In 1999 Sir Richard was appointed chief and, like all his predecessors since the agency's founder Captain Sir Mansfield Cumming, became known in Whitehall simply as "C".
A year later he had to endure the indignity of a terrorist rocket attack - blamed on dissident Irish republicans - on MI6's headquarters on the south bank of the River Thames, although the damage was slight.
Sir Richard, who is married with three grown-up children, received a knighthood in June 2001.
Later that year, the agency's reputation came under fire after the 11 September attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.
MI6 was accused by the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee of failing to respond with sufficient urgency to warnings that al-Qaeda was planning a major terrorist attack.
The agency came in for more scrutiny after the government's decision to publish an Iraqi weapons dossier based on secret intelligence.
But reports of a rift between the government and Sir Richard over the issue, were denied by ministers.
The Foreign Office stressed Sir Richard's retirement in August 2004 - after the normal five year length of service for a head of MI6 - was in no way connected to events relating to Iraq.
Sir Richard raised the issue again in a 2007 lecture on intelligence and the media.
He said the government felt using intelligence as the primary justification for its actions was the best chance of winning over its opponents but it turned out to have highly undesirable consequences for the intelligence community.
Sir Richard took up the position of Master of Cambridge University's Pembroke College after leaving MI6.
In February 2008, he was called to appear at the inquest into the death of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed. He denied claims by Harrods boss Mohammed Al Fayed that the intelligence services killed the princess and his son, who died in a car crash in Paris in August 1997.