A tribute to Lord Quirk, President of the British Academy (1985-1989)

5 Jan 2018

Baron Randolph Quirk, a renowned linguist, life peer and President of the British Academy from 1985 to 1989, has died at the age of 97. He died on 20 December 2017.

Under his Presidency, the British Academy expanded many of its funding schemes, particularly through the generous support of benefactors such as the Leverhulme Trust and the Wolfson Foundation.

Notably, Lord Quirk presided over the first of the British Academy’s Postdoctoral Fellowships which, over 30 years later, remain a vital springboard for early career scholars, with over a thousand awards made to date.

Such was the growth of the British Academy’s role as a de facto humanities research council under Lord Quirk’s Presidency that his successor, Sir Anthony Kenny, set up a working party in 1989 to look into how research in the humanities should best be funded.

Lord Quirk was first elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1975 on the basis of ‘his sustained demonstration in his published works of the significant relation between linguistics and literature, by which the study of both subjects has been furthered; his initiation and expert direction of the Survey of English Usage at University College London; his service to national welfare as chairman of the Committee of Enquiry into Speech Therapy Services; his acknowledged international standing as a linguistician’.

David Cannadine, current President of the British Academy said:

‘Lord Quirk made an unparalleled contribution to the study of the English language and, more broadly, to the role of humanities and social sciences in national life. His legacy lives on in the Academy’s continued commitment to research funding and support for early career researchers through Postdoctoral Fellowships.’

British Academy staff remember Randolph Quirk as a regular presence as President, reflecting that he was always a friendly avuncular figure for those encountering him making a cup of tea in the staff kitchen.

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