Oct 26 2015

Michael Wise

Michael Wise art LSE, c1990sProfessor David K. C. Jones, Emeritus Professor of Geography and Environment at LSE remembers Emeritus Professor Michael Wise, who died on 13th October 2015.

Academic colleagues and past students of both the LSE and King’s College Departments of Geography will be saddened to hear of the death of Professor Michael Wise CBE, MC, on Tuesday 13 October 2015, aged 97.

Michael was appointed as Lecturer in Geography at LSE in 1951 and rapidly rose through the ranks, becoming Ernest Cassel Reader in Economic Geography in 1954 and Professor in 1958. He was a big man with a kind heart and every bit a gentleman.

His air of authority, charm and calming style provided assurance to those around him and led to his appointment as chair of a number of committees in the School. He was Convenor of the LSE Geography Department several times during his 25 years as a professor; indeed most junior colleagues came to the view that he ran the Department irrespective as to who was Convenor! Within the School he is probably best remembered for two things: being the (single) Pro-Director responsible for the change-over of Directorship from Ralph Dahrendorf to I.G. Patel (1983–4) and for his excellent portrayal of Father Christmas at several of the School’s Christmas parties.

As an academic he became extremely influential at national and international levels and is one of only two UK academics who ever achieved the distinction of being President of all three UK geographical societies (The Royal Geographical Society, The Geographical Association and The Institute of British Geographers) and The International Geographical Union (the other was Sir L. Dudley Stamp who was also a member of the LSE Geography Department).

However, he did not restrict himself to purely academic activities, as is illustrated by the fact that he was Chairman of the Ministry of Agriculture Committee of Inquiry into Statutory Smallholdings (1963–67) and served for nineteen years on the Department of Transport Advisory Committee on the Landscape Treatment of Trunk Roads (and later Motorways), nine of which he was Chairman.

Despite the pressures of this very active career he always had time to talk to colleagues and students and to give lectures on the “British Isles” to second year undergraduates. He was made an Honorary Fellow of LSE in 1988 in recognition of his services to the School.

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

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4 Responses to Michael Wise

  1. Peter Mitchell says:

    I studied under Michael Wise 1957-60 and have the warmest memories of his teaching and his personal kindness. We found we were fellow residents of Finchley. I recall going to his inaugural lecture when he got his chair. His enthusiasm for human geography rubbed off on me and with his encouragement I became a town planner. In the 90s I met him once or twice when I was in LSE for BSPS meetings and he was the same as ever. Another nice memory was a field course in his original home ground of the Midlands: a gaggle of us were in an old quarry near Dudley and a small boy was eyeing us questioningly. Far from ignoring him, Michael greeted him with “Hello, our kid”. It’s the little things that you remember!

  2. Derek Glover says:

    I recall going up from the country with some trepidation for my interview with Michael Wise in 1954. School mates who had been through the Oxbridge mill had fed me with horror stories of impossible people asking impossible questions. To my great delight the most imposing but most understanding of men welcomed me warmly, teased out my reasons for the application, probed what we meant by field geography and then settled to talk about both Watford and Luton football clubs.
    After about twenty minutes he offered entrance to LSE on condition that I managed 3 A levels at B grade. To my great surprise he hen remembered the soccer links when we met on the first field trip. What an inspiration he was!

  3. Andrew Tebb says:

    I first encountered Michael Wise in 1977 when I started my undergraduate degree and was honoured to be at the reception celebrating his 90th birthday many years later. He was still the friendliest person and as sharp as ever. A true inspiration.

  4. James Guest says:

    I was saddened to find that Professor Wise had passed on; I was checking if anything was happening for his 100th, but that was not to be. Other than his towering intellect he will be remembered by his students for his kindness. He always greeted me if he saw me in the corridor. And sometimes got my name correct. He was extremely kind to me, acting as an external supervisor for a CNAA economics research degree (in my desire to pretend that my B.Sc(Econ) meant I knew something about economics). He did, however, tell me that the thing I was proposing had been done in 1922, just another example of his phenomenal knowledge.
    He was at times a ‘stereotypical’ absent minded professor. During a lecture by Mrs Rees [now Dame Professor Rees] he began humming and tapping his pipe, to the good-natured amusement of Dr [now Professor] Jones.
    Students will remember him fondly as an incisive intellect, amusing wit, and a thoroughly charming and good human being. He was the head of a pantheon of tremendous minds in the Geography Department. [Including Bob Estall who I have also found has gone.]

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