Wednesday 28 October 2015
The School of English and Drama at Queen Mary University of London is deeply saddened by the death of Professor Lisa Jardine, at the age of 71.
Lisa joined QMUL in 1989, just after the merger between Queen Mary College at Mile End and Westfield College in Hampstead. Under her leadership the department grew in size and scope to become a School of English and Drama. She served as Head of Department (1990-93), and later as Dean of the Faculty of Arts (1993-96). She was appointed to a personal chair as Centenary Professor of Renaissance Studies, before in 2002 becoming the founding Director of the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters. It was as head of this research group that she finally left Queen Mary for UCL in 2012. As well as being an inspiring teacher and a great scholar, Lisa was a major figure in public life in London: she was variously a governor of the Westminster City School for Boys (an inner city state boys’ school in London), a trustee of the Victoria and Albert Museum, on the board of the AHRC, and chair of the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. In recent months she was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society, an accolade few in the humanities have ever achieved. Lisa brought her considerable intellectual resources to every task she faced, even including academic and institutional administration.
Her influence on the discipline, both within and far beyond her own specialism of Renaissance studies (a field that she continually redefined in her scholarship and teaching) was immense; her inspiring effect on generations of students and younger colleagues almost impossible to measure. Lisa was a driving force in the School during periods of great change and expansion, always determined to aim big and to overcome obstacles that would have deterred others. In the lecture hall and the classroom she opened up new horizons of thinking for students of all levels, from first-years studying Shakespeare to her PhD students, so many of whom have gone on to stellar careers in the academy. Equally, in her research she sought to address as wide an audience as possible, while never speaking down to her readers: she treated them as her equals and expected them to be as excited as she was by the people, cultures, and texts that she presented to them. Lisa’s wit could be caustic; her laughter was infectious and unforgettable; and her unmatched energy daunting yet inspirational. She made herself expert in so many subjects that it is impossible to list all of her contributions here, ranging as they did from her early studies of Renaissance dialectic and Francis Bacon, through her work on Shakespeare, to books on Erasmus, natural philosophy, and the influence of Dutch culture on seventeenth-century England (for which, of course, she realised she needed to know Dutch, and so learnt it). A champion of younger scholars – especially, but by no means only, women scholars – and of the world of learning she did so much to bring to life, the School of English and Drama will remember Lisa Jardine especially as a figurehead and a friend. Our thoughts, and profound sympathy, are with her family.