Obituary: Professor J. C. Pugh

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The Independent Culture
J.C. PUGH will be remembered with affection by many students and teachers in both the UK and Nigeria.

He came to London University in 1956 as Reader in Geography at King's College, a job which demanded much of him - departmental and college administrative duties as well as teaching. His initial appointment was to impart his knowledge of Africa, and of its fascinating landscape, gained over 14 years in Nigeria, to successive London geography students, but he also taught practical skills in map-making in the field. His attention to detail and a remarkable memory, together with a dry sense of humour and a fund of anecdotes will be recalled by many.

In 1964 he was made a Professor and in 1966 was appointed Head of Department. Despite his responsibilities he took considerable care to interview as many of the applicants for admission to the department as possible so that right from the start he got to know them, and they him.

His textbook Surveying for Field Scientists (1975) will have been familiar to King's College Geography students of that era, who will have special regard for the much-mapped Sussex heaths near the Rogate field centre. Pugh served on a number of college boards and committees, as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and was elected a Fellow of King's College in 1979. He retired in 1984.

He was born in Bristol in 1919, the only son of Captain George Pugh MC, and attended Bristol Grammar School. He won a scholarship to read Geography at St Catharine's College, Cambridge, which he completed with distinction in 1940.

Initially he joined the Royal Engineers, but in 1941 was transferred to the Colonial Office and, although expecting to be sent to Hong Kong, found himself diverted to help in the mapping of Nigeria. He enjoyed a great deal of satisfaction from his work with the basic survey framework of Africa - its primary triangulation - which meant considerable spells of field observation in the bush.

Eight years of surveying were followed by seven years as a founder member of the University College of Ibadan in Nigeria in the newly established Geography Department, as Lecturer and then Senior Lecturer as well as Dean of Science.

He was tireless in working for the department and for the students and was one of the co-founders of the Nigerian Geographical Society in 1955. At the same time he completed his doctorate on the Geomorphology of Nigeria, contributed to the theory of landscape evolution in Africa, and wrote textbooks on aspects of African geography. He collaborated with K.M. Buchanan in the book Land and People in Nigeria (1955) and a major work, West Africa, with W.B. Morgan, was published in 1969.

After retirement he had time to take up some local interests - the Tunbridge Wells Geographical Association, Conservative Association and other societies; he was much involved with the fund-raising work of the local Red Cross. and attended SSAFA meetings (his funeral service was led by their Chaplain, Air Vice Marshal the Reverend S.M. Davidson). Retirement also meant a little more time to enjoy music - he had played the piano and sung in earlier days - and visits to Glyndebourne.

John Pugh founded two prizes - one, in memory of his father, in the Physics Department at Bristol and another in the Geography Department at King's College. Both were designed as much for encouragement as for reward - not so much for the high-flyers but for those who showed application and special interest and enthusiasm. It was therefore typical that he had requested that contributions in his memory should be made to the King's Geography Department Fund.

John Charles Pugh: born Bristol 9 January 1919; Reader in Geography, King's College London 1956-64, Professor 1964-84 (Emeritus); married 1944 (one son); died Tunbridge Wells, Kent 31 October 1998.