David Smith obituary | Geography

My friend David Smith, who died at the age of 85, was Professor of Geography at Queen Mary University of London and author of 21 books focusing primarily on the intersection between human geography, ethics and moral philosophy.

Much of his work has focused on compelling case studies drawn from research in South Africa, Palestine, Australia, the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, examining in particular the causes of inequality and social injustice and what could be done about them.

David was born in Solihull in the West Midlands to James, who ran a secretarial agency, and Elizabeth (née McIlquham), a designer. After attending school in Solihull, he studied geography at the University of Nottingham, where he met Margaret Harrup, a classmate turned social worker. They married in 1961 and collaborated on a number of projects, including co-authoring a book, The United States: How They Live and Work, published in 1973.

David’s first post was as a lecturer at the University of Manchester from 1964 to 1966, when he moved with Margaret and her family to the United States, where he first taught at the University of southern Illinois at Carbondale (1966-68) then at the University. from Florida to Gainesville (1968-72). There were short guest lectures at the Universities of Natal and the Witwatersrand in South Africa and the University of New England in Australia in 1973, before moving to Queen Mary University of London that year, remaining there until his retirement in 2002.

Most of his books were written while he was at Queen Mary, and he was most proud of his last two, Geography and Social Justice (1994) and Moral Geographies: Ethics in a World of Difference (2000). Both are distinguished by their commitment to bringing human geography and moral philosophy into politically relevant dialogue.

Although he also wrote 104 academic papers over the years, David was not one to attend international conferences, although he was invited to many conferences. What mattered to him was the personal contact with students and colleagues, changing their lives with a simple conversation. He was a private and family person, humbled by his accomplishments, a man who loved to travel, eat out and listen to music, especially Elgar and jazz.

Margaret died in 2002. He is survived by their children, Michael and Tes, and his sister, Sheila.

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