Feb 2 2022

In memory of Christopher Langford (1941- 2022)

LSE is deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Christopher Langford, who died aged 80 on 20 January 2022.

Chris was an emeritus reader in Demography in the department of Social Policy at the LSE. He started working here in 1967 until he retired in 2001. Retirement was just in name as he was keen to come to the LSE to work and could be seen in the research lab until a few years ago.

His first work at the LSE was to take charge of the implementation, data preparation and analysis of the 1967-68 Population Investigation Committee survey of fertility and contraceptive practice in Great Britain, and wrote the final report (C.M. Langford, Birth Control Practice and Marital Fertility in Great Britain, 1976). His first stream of work mainly focussed on contraception and abortion in the UK. Subsequently he worked on the demography of Sri Lanka being one of the first scholars to explore the richness of its registration and census data.

During his retirement his focus was mainly around famine and influenza including again focussing on Sri Lanka, then China and London. Interest in Sri Lanka included learning Sinhalese and immersing himself in local culture rather than analysing remote survey data. One of Chris’ major contributions was arguably in teaching. He taught a course on demographic methods that had over 200 students at one stage. His major achievement was in the establishment and leadership of the MSc in Demography at LSE, which provided well-trained cohorts of students who have made a substantial contribution to the subject’s skill base around the World. Chris always put his students at the heart of his work and will be remembered fondly for his empathy and attention to detail.
He loved talking to colleagues and students alike whether while in the research lab in social policy or down the pub over a pint of Black Sheep (on which he had shares). Chris will be remembered by colleagues and students that have met him for his ability to make everyone feel at ease, tell a demographic tale in the most interesting way and engage in a conversation about historical pandemic facts. He was a firm believer in the importance and power of regular informal meetings with colleagues, and junior colleagues benefitted from his weekly coffee meetings in the 4th Floor restaurant – where he dispensed advice and coffee in equal measure.

His annual trips to the pantomime at the Theatre Royal in Stratford were legendary – organised so that international students saw a slice of idiosyncratic British culture – were a firm favourite of his students, long before “The Student Experience” became a core element of university practice. Chris was infamous for his waste-not-want-not approach, notably his ability to use pencil stubs and 1970s computer punch cards in lieu of notebooks.

He leaves a huge legacy of affection and respect from over his three decades at LSE.

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6 Responses to In memory of Christopher Langford (1941- 2022)

  1. Eilidh Garrett says:

    I have very fond memories of an outing Chris led to Stratford East when ‘Five Guys named Mo’ was first performed…we ended up dancing in a conga-line out of the auditorium and into the bar…led by Chris.
    As a mentor, friend and colleague he was one of the very best – and one of a kind!

  2. Jane Falkingham says:

    I am so sorry to learn of the passing of Chris Langford. He was that rare academic that had time to listen and offer advice alongside instilling a deep passion for his discipline. In the 1980s Chris was responsible for overseeing the allocation of studentships for the relatively new MSc in Demography and I was lucky enough to persuade him that I would be worthy of the investment, starting my own career in the discipline. He continued to support me throughout my career, always finding time for a coffee and discussion; and invariably a drink on the fourth floor after the weekly seminar to which he attracted the thought leaders in the discipline from around the globe, thereby exposing students and junior staff to to titans of the field. Chris – generations of demographers owe a debt of gratitude to you. Thank you,

    • Nahid Kamal says:

      Saddened to learn about the passing of Chris Langford. As a MSc student in 1995, I was lucky to have attended his lively lectures on the demography of Sri Lanka. I am among the generations of demographers who owe a debt of gratitude to Chris – he wrote me a glowing recommendation after my MSc which had landed me my first ever job and that subsequently opened many other doors.

  3. Ernestina Coast says:

    I am deeply saddened to hear of Chris’ death. He was my first contact with demography at the LSE – when I went to see him about the possibility of a scholarship for the MSc in Demography. As one of many generations of students to have benefitted from Chris’s careful teaching and mentoring – including the legendary annual pantomime trip – I am grateful to him for this; his approach influences my academic practice today. As a junior colleague of Chris’, his patient support and advice – invariably fuelled by coffee in the 4th floor café – was invaluable. Thank you Chris.

  4. Alice Reid says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this news. I first got to know Chris in 1991 when he not only offered me a place on the MSc but also employed me to calculate SMAMs for a couple of months prior to the MSc starting. Calculating SMAMs by hand was a bit tedious, but I perservered and was rewarded with Chris’ inspiring teaching. His influence was a crucial part of launching my demographic career, as those of many others. I enjoyed many years of catching up at BSPS conferences and other events, where his comments on presentations were always interesting and constructive. He will be greatly missed.

  5. John Hobcraft says:

    Chris was a much valued colleague during my years in demography at the LSE from 1967 to 1974 and from 1984 to 2004. In 1967 we began teaching on the then newly established M.Sc. in Demography, initially funded by the Ford Foundation. From the outset Chris played a crucial role in managing the course. During the eight week closure of LSE in 1968 he secured alternative accommodation to ensure that the students, mostly from the third world, never missed a lecture. He was always willing to go above and beyond to ensure things ran meticulously well. He was also a good friend, sharing much social life during those early years.
    On my return to LSE he was still playing a major role in running the M.Sc. and making a big contribution to undergraduate teaching. He was in many ways the glue that held the Population Studies group together. He was always interesting to talk with over the many pints we shared along with hosting dinners for each other too.
    I will miss him a great deal and hope there’s a good pint to be found wherever he is now!

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