Richard Grove (the Guardian obituary)

An obituary by Deepak Kumar for London’s Guardian.

My friend Richard Grove, who has died aged 64, was one of the founders of the relatively new academic discipline of environmental history.

His magisterial Green Imperialism (1995) was the first book to document the origins and early history of environmentalism, tracing the beginnings of modern green thinking to European experiences in the island ecologies and tropical environments of Asia and Africa during colonial expansion. In addition, in 1995 he co-founded the journal Environment and History and in 2002, with his wife, Vinita Damodaran, he set up the Centre for World Environmental History at the University of Sussex, which has become a world leader in its field.

Born in Cambridge, Richard was the son of Jean (nee Clark) and her husband, Dick Grove, who were both lecturers at Cambridge University. After attending The Perse school in Cambridge, Richard took a degree in geography at Hartford College, Oxford, followed by a master’s in conservation biology at University College London.

From then on he won academic fellowships, grants, tenures, and a string of research awards and professorial fellowships from some of the world’s most prestigious universities and institutes. Although this took him to many places in many part-time and temporary roles, his last post was as a full-time and permanent research professor, at the Australian National University in Canberra.

Richard travelled incessantly, sparkled as a speaker at conferences, and published a large number of academic papers. His 1997 monograph on El Niño and the long-term relationships between climate change and economic and social events was influential in creating a new dialogue between environmental historians and experts in the atmospheric sciences. Global warming, he showed, had been studied in the Victorian era, though early warning signals were ignored.

In 2006, a car accident left Richard severely disabled, cutting short his career and contributing to his early death. He lived for the rest of his life in Lewes, East Sussex, under special care.

He is survived by Vinita, whom he married after they had met while PhD students at Cambridge in the late 80s, and by their son, Edwin.

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