David Turnock, 1938-2011

June 9, 2011

Anyone roaming the halls of the geography department at the University of Leicester in the 1970s and 1980s would have been familiar with David Turnock and his Imperial typewriter; the sound of his typing was something of a constant in the department.

Born in 1938, Professor Turnock was educated at Wigan Grammar School. After completing two years of national service as a teenager, he studied at St Catharine's College, Cambridge, where he was eventually awarded a doctorate.

After completing his PhD, he went on to work at the University of Aberdeen for three years and then moved to Leicester in 1969. It was there that Professor Turnock spent the remainder of his career, working for 34 years until he retired in 2003.

Gareth Lewis, emeritus professor of human geography at Leicester and a long-time friend and colleague, said Professor Turnock was a dedicated scholar who immersed himself in his subject matter.

"He was very meticulous in everything he did, whether it was teaching, research or administration," Professor Lewis said. "He was a very quiet person, but at a personal level and in small groups he was full of stories."

One of his enduring academic and personal interests was Eastern Europe and, in particular, Romania.

Professor Turnock led charitable efforts to collect books to restock university libraries in the former Communist state, most notably that of the University of Bucharest.

He also helped to deliver medical supplies and toys to villages throughout Romania.

Professor Lewis said that these undertakings were typical of Professor Turnock, who was unfailingly modest about his work. "He never boasted about his achievements. If you didn't ask him, you wouldn't know about the things he did or the number of publications he had. We've already discovered two books he wrote that none of us was aware of," he said.

Those two volumes make up a small part of the hundreds of papers and more than 20 books that Professor Turnock authored over the course of his career.

His contributions to European understanding were recognised by the Royal Geographical Society, which presented him with the Edward Heath Award in 1989.

Professor Turnock's desire to research and publish was a constant throughout his life. "Even when he retired, he would cycle in to the department two or three days a week," Professor Lewis said. "But he had a clear work-life balance and was a superb family man. His two boys thought the world of him."

Professor Turnock died on 10 May after a car accident in which his wife, Marion, was seriously injured.


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