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.