Professor J. Neville Birdsall

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The Independent Online

To me as an Oxford academic (and I am not alone in this respect), his alleged reservations about Oxbridge dons were not made visible. His fluent conversation, in a crisp and emphatic rather than booming voice, gave great pleasure until in his final years illness took its toll, and his comments on the academic world were as a rule suitably sceptical and ironic rather than scurrilous. The episode which led to friction with the British Academy was at least as much a reflection on certain members of that society as it was on Neville. Nor should it go unmentioned that he and his wife provided a scholarship for a young Nigerian to be properly educated, and for this act of generosity he was rewarded by being installed as a chief of the tribe, while his wife was made a chief posthumously.