UCL recruits star to helm flagship

Queen Mary loses high-profile intellectual Lisa Jardine to London rival. Matthew Reisz reports

August 23, 2012

Credit: Christian Sinibaldi/Guardian News
Legacy planning: 'Queen Mary thinks I'm winding down; I think I’m building up'

One of the country's leading Renaissance scholars and public intellectuals is moving her "whole team, website and projects" to a rival institution's new flagship research centre.

Lisa Jardine, currently centenary professor of Renaissance studies at Queen Mary, University of London, will from 1 September relocate to University College London to become the first director of its Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in the Humanities.

"I hope I will up my game," Professor Jardine said. "Queen Mary thinks I'm winding down and I think I'm still building up - that's what tends to happen when you've been somewhere over 20 years and you are over 60. It will be hugely exciting to help a new institute to fly."

Along with her own books, frequent media appearances and three days a week as chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, Professor Jardine runs the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters (Cell), based at Queen Mary.

Cell carries out archive-based research covering the 16th to 18th centuries and looks at ways of translating it into online resources. Although Cell has its own "integrity and international presence", she said, it will also provide the core skills required by the UCL centre when it moves there.

Henry Woudhuysen, professor of English at UCL, said a "substantial proportion" of the £1.65 million given to the arts and humanities out of the institution's strategic development fund would go towards setting up the centre.

"Although UCL is 65 per cent medical, it is showing its commitment to the future of the arts and humanities by investing rather large sums in them," he said.

The daughter of scientist, inventor and television presenter Jacob Bronowski and sculptor Rita Coblentz, Professor Jardine has long worked on the frontiers between science, history and the arts.

She paid tribute to UCL provost Malcolm Grant's "personal inspiration" and said the idea for the centre came out of a conversation with him.

Despite her many commitments, she planned to be "very much in evidence at the centre. I want it to work like a science lab. Teamwork in the humanities is hugely exciting."

Although she is 68 and has recently recovered from a second bout of cancer, Professor Jardine said that this had only made her "more keen to embark on important new projects".

She added: "Building a centre for young scholars in these straitened times - that's a legacy I'd be happy to leave behind. I need one more big challenge and this is it."


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