Nov 2 2017

Emeritus Professor Robert Estall

Professor Robert Estall

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Professor Robert Estall, Professor of Geography at LSE until 1989, and an Emeritus Professor thereafter. He was also an undergraduate student at LSE from 1952-55 and completed his PhD here in 1964.

I was extremely sorry to hear of the passing of Emeritus Professor Robert Estall. He was a distinguished geographer, yet always modest.  As a person, he was full of kindness, character and integrity, and I will remember him fondly.

Our paths crossed more than once. Together with the late Professor Emrys Jones he interviewed me for the undergraduate degree in Geography in 1976 when I was 17 years old. The interview was so relaxed and enjoyable that I emerged feeling that I was walking on air! I was subsequently given a conditional offer of two Es at A level – an indication that Profs Estall and Jones had warmed to me, as much as I had to them! I was sorely tempted to take the LSE place but under pressure of parents and teachers, I opted instead to read my undergraduate programme at King’s College Cambridge. However, I was pulled back to LSE, partly because of my recollection of that initial encounter, as well as LSE’s rapidly-emerging distinction as a place to do groundbreaking research in geography in a context of social science interdisciplinarity.  

So, I returned to LSE in 1988 as a young lecturer (what would now be ‘assistant professor’),  following a PhD at UCL, a post-doctoral year in Mexico funded by a Leverhulme Trust Study Abroad Studentship, and and 18 months as a lecturer in Geography and Latin American Studies at Liverpool.  

As soon as I had been appointed, Professor Estall, together with Professor Bob Bennett, then Head of Department, reached out to ask if I could contribute to the book they were editing on Global Change and Challenge: Geography for the 1990s, which was eventually published by Routledge in 1991, which was to showcase the research of a small contingent of LSE geographers at the time. In the end, my over-long first chapter draft ended up becoming two chapters, which was a real bonus for someone with a limited emerging publication track record! Prof Estall was a patient and judicious editor, meeting with me to discuss and finesse the contributions, and being unfailingly encouraging about my efforts.

I was sorry when he retired officially in 1989, but enjoyed seeing him on several occasions subsequently. He always showed such interest in young scholars, and his passing, like that of the late Professors Michael Wise and Derek Diamond, leaves me feeling bereft of a generation of senior academics who worked well into their retirement to support the Department and the discipline of Geography more widely.  He is firmly locked into my treasure trove of professional and personal memories, and my thoughts go out to the family and friends he has left behind.


Professor Sylvia Chant FRSA FAcSS

Professor of Development Geography

Director, MSc Urbanisation and Development


If you would like to post a tribute to Professor Estall; leave your condolences or share any memories you have of him please comment on this post.

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One Response to Emeritus Professor Robert Estall

  1. Anyone who knew Rob will instantly recognise Sylvia’s vivid portrayal. In the mind’s eye he is always smiling, always friendly, always ready to pitch in. I first met him when, as a fairly recent hire, I became a member of the Admissions Committee which Rob chaired. He made me feel very welcome and treated me as though my views mattered.

    The ripple effects of that attitude were much wider. Alongside colleagues in the Geography Department like Michael Wise, Alan Day in Economics and, slightly later, Ralf Dahrendorf, Rob was one of the people who helped to make the Senior Common Room less hierarchical – a place where young lecturers could trade ideas with Readers and Professors in a genuinely relaxed way. As a beneficiary, I look back with gratitude to and affection for the senior colleagues who made that happen.

    The view that Rob had a significant role in establishing a less hierarchical collegial atmosphere in the School would perhaps have surprised him, but not those who knew him. There was always serious purpose – but for many, it will be the smile that will linger in memory.

    Nicholas Barr FRSA
    Professor of Public Economics
    European Institute

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