David Arnold was born in Bedford on 7 June 1951 and studied engineering and computer science at the University of Cambridge before going on to do a PhD titled “A Computer Model of Housing Layout” in the department of architecture (1978). He also served as a research assistant in the Centre for Land Use and Built Form Studies (1972-77).
After working briefly as a senior programmer for the Royal Naval Engineering College in Plymouth (1977-78), Professor Arnold returned to the academy and spent the whole period from 1978 to 2002 at the University of East Anglia.
He was taken on as a lecturer in computer science and later promoted to senior lecturer (1978) and professor (1989). He also took on part-time roles as assistant and then senior assistant dean of students (1978-81) and was seconded for nine months (1996-97) to a team bidding for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for augmented facilities and a replacement to the Norfolk County Library (destroyed by fire in 1994). This eventually secured £68 million.
In 2002, Professor Arnold joined the University of Brighton as professor of computing science and dean of the Faculty of Management and Information Sciences. He moved on in 2010 to the positions of director of research initiatives and dean of Brighton Doctoral College until his retirement earlier this year.
For his whole career at Brighton, Professor Arnold was the founding director of the Cultural Informatics Research Group, which collaborated with major national and international museums, archives, heritage agencies and businesses. He also took the lead in a project for creating long-term 3D documentation of tangible cultural heritage.
For John Taylor, head of the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics at Brighton, Professor Arnold “effortlessly combined human warmth and empathy with both senior management and exceptional international research leadership. He singlehandedly developed and led the CIRG, a close-knit group of university scholars with an international research profile whose reach went far beyond the academic community.
“The group was a part of an extraordinary European network of academic and cultural organisations that David was instrumental in creating. Alongside this, David led the Faculty of Management and Information Sciences comprising four schools with a wide range of academic interests. But his leadership was never remote; David always engaged with colleagues on a deeply personal level.”
Professor Arnold died unexpectedly on 25 October and is survived by his wife Angela and two sons from an earlier marriage.