Lisa Jardine dead: ‘Inspirational historian’ and broadcaster dies aged 71

Tributes paid after academic loses battle with cancer

The distinguished historian, broadcaster and former chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), Professor Lisa Jardine, has died of cancer. She was 71.

Professor Jardine wrote influential works about Sir Christopher Wren, the Netherlands in the 17th century, Erasmus, women in the time of Shakespeare, and humanism, but is perhaps best known for her work as a commentator on history and the arts on television and radio. She regularly presented BBC Radio 4’s A Point of View and also judged a number of literary prizes, such as the Whitbread Prize for fiction.

Tributes poured in on social media, with the artist Grayson Perry writing on Twitter: “Very sad to hear of the death of Prof Lisa Jardine, a brilliant and generous friend.”

The historian Mathew Lyons, a History Today columnist, called her “a profound and inspirational historian, intellectual and writer”. And Professor Anson Mackay, a colleague at University College London, where Professor Jardine worked from 2012, added: “Really really sad to hear that Prof Lisa Jardine has passed away. A huge loss to UCL and academia in general.”

Born the daughter of Jacob Bronowski, the Polish academic who wrote and presented the BBC documentary The Ascent of Man in the 1970s, and Rita Coblentz, an artist, in 1944, Professor Jardine rose to become one of the UK’s most respected commentators on a range of subjects from the arts and history to ethics and current affairs.

When she was appointed as professor of renaissance studies at UCL in 2012, the dean of arts and humanities, Professor Henry Woudhuysen, hailed her as “an outstanding, internationally renowned scholar”. As chair of the HFEA, a position she held from 2008 to 2014, she had to deal with the complex and highly emotional issues about the artificial creation of life and helped to develop a globally renowned legal framework for IVF treatment.

She appeared on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs in June this year, choosing music as diverse as “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads and “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” by Bob Dylan to Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor and Mozart’s “Dove Sono” from The Marriage of Figaro.

She was married to the architect John Hare, with whom she had two sons and a daughter.

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