Obituary: Professor Eila Campbell

W. R. Mead
Monday 25 July 1994 23:02

Eila Muriel Joice Campbell, geographer: born 15 December 1915; Professor of Geography, Birkbeck College, London 1970-81; died London 12 July 1994.

EILA CAMPBELL, a specialist in the history of cartography, was one of the post-war generation of geographers brought up with a broad vision of the subject.

After attending Bournemouth School for Girls and Brighton Diocesan Training College, Campbell graduated from Birkbeck College, London, in 1941. Thereafter, she held a teaching post in Southall, west London, at the same time as a part-time assistantship at the college. She was appointed to an assistant lectureship in geography in 1945, took an MA with distinction and subsequently spent her career at Birkbeck. In 1970, she was appointed to the chair and headship of the department, retiring in 1981. Birkbeck College generates great loyalty among both staff and students. Campbell was devoted to it and to the generations of students who passed through her hands.

At an early stage in her academic life, Campbell was fortunate to come under the influence of two inspiring colleagues and strong personalities - Professor EGR Taylor and Professor HC (later Sir Clifford) Darby. The former, her Birkbeck mentor, became in some respects a role model. From her, Campbell acquired a profound interest in the history of cartography. Professor Darby chose her as joint editor of the first volume of his pioneering Domesday Geography of England (1954), to which she was also a contributor. The rigorous training that she received from him was doubtless reflected in her meticulous editorship of Imago Mundi, the international journal of the history of cartography. In recognition of the 20 years that she devoted to its publication, a special award was made to her by the International Map Collectors' Society in 1989. She became a long-standing council member of both the Society for Nautical Research and the Hackluyt Society. She was honorary secretary of the latter for 20 years and a central figure in the International Cartographic Union.

The Royal Geographical Society also benefited from her long membership. She served on the Council from 1971 to 1975 and was an invaluable member of the library and maps committee for over 20 years. She was the recipient of the society's Murchison Award in 1979. For six years she was president of the Royal Society Sub- Committee for Cartography, she served on the British National Committee for Geography and in 1975 was President of Section E of the British Association. The annual meeting of the Institute of British Geographers has never been quite the same since ill- health prevented her from attending and making her lively interjections. Campbell was also active in both the British Federation of University Women.

As a geographer, Campbell will be remembered for the conspicuous success with which she flew the flag of her particular branch when it was no longer central to the subject, for the searching questions with which she could galvanise a committee; but, above all, for the understanding with which she treated her many students. Only four evenings before her death, though frail, Campbell attended a reunion dinner for more than 60 of the master's degree students whose work she had helped to supervise. The occasion was a memorable tribute both to her and to the college which she held in such affection.

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