Pro­fes­sor Lisa Jar­dine

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - GLO­RIA TESSLER

BORN OX­FORD, APRIL 12, 1944. DIED OC­TO­BER 25, 2015, AGED 71

THE CHARIS­MATIC his­to­rian and bi­og­ra­pher Lisa Jar­dine “be­daz­zled her gen­er­a­tion” — ac­cord­ing to fel­low his­to­rian Lord Hen­nessy — who saw her as a nat­u­ral swim­mer in both streams, the sci­en­tific and the arts and hu­man­i­ties. Jar­dine helped make knowl­edge ac­ces­si­ble to all, and in­vited women to share the di­a­logue, which earned her the po­si­tion of fore­most fe­male pub­lic in­tel­lec­tual of our times.

Backed by a host of aca­demic plau­dits, Jar­dine held doc­tor­ates and vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor­ships and spoke eight mod­ern and clas­si­cal lan­guages. At a time when im­mi­gra­tion is an in­ter­na­tion­ally con­tentious is­sue, at least two jour­nal­ists have al­luded to Jar­dine’s cen­tral-Euro­pean Jewish roots as proof of the cul­tural en­rich­ment im­mi­grants have brought to Bri­tain. Ac­cord­ing to Mary De­jevsky in the Guardian: “It is no co­in­ci­dence that both she and David Ce­sarani (page left) had Cen­tral Euro­pean Jewish roots, which al­lowed them to span that deep at­ti­tu­di­nal di­vide.”

As a his­to­rian, Lisa Anne Jar­dine fo­cused on the early mod­ern and the Re­nais­sance pe­ri­ods. She pi­o­neered the Cen­tre for Edit­ing Lives and Let­ters at Queen Mary Univer­sity of Lon­don, be­com­ing its Cen­te­nary Pro­fes­sor of Re­nais­sance Stud­ies and di­rec­tor from 1990-2011. Jar­dine dis­trusted a nar­row ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem that of­fered choices be­tween the arts and sciences rather than link­ing them to­gether, and in time she would prove in her own aca­demic dis­ci­plines that both were pos­si­ble.

Her in­ter­est in the emer­gent de­vel­op­ments in the sci­ence of em­bry­ol­ogy led to her chair­ing the Hu­man Fer­til­i­sa­tion and Em­bry­ol­ogy Author­ity (HFEA) from 2008-2014. Un­til 2009 she was a mem­ber of Coun­cil at the Royal In­sti­tu­tion and be­came found­ing di­rec­tor of UCL’s Cen­tre for In­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary Re­search in the Hu­man­i­ties. She was a Fel­low of the Royal His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety and an Hon­orary Fel­low of King’s Col­lege and of Je­sus Col­lege, Cam­bridge.

Just this year she was made an hon­orary fel­low of the Royal So­ci­ety and won its pres­ti­gious medal for pop­u­lar­is­ing sci­ence, as well as re­ceiv­ing a CBE. For eight years Jar­dine was a Trustee of the Vic­to­ria and Al­bert Mu­seum and a Pa­tron of the Ar­chives and Records As­so­ci­a­tion and the Orange Prize.

Her aca­demic awards were le­gion and in­cluded the Fran­cis Ba­con Award in the His­tory of Sci­ence by the Cal­i­for­nia In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in 2012, while in the same year she re­ceived the Bri­tish Academy Pres­i­dent’s Medal. Be­tween 2013-14 she was Pres­i­dent of the Bri­tish Sci­ence As­so­ci­a­tion of which she had been made an Hon­orary Fel­low in 2012.

Jar­dine mar­ried the sci­en­tist Ni­cholas Jar­dine in 1969 and they had two chil­dren, Daniel and Rachel. The mar­riage ended in 1979 and in 1982 she mar­ried ar­chi­tect John Hare with whom she had a son, Sam.

A pro­lific and prize-win­ning writer, Jar­dine pub­lished or co-au­thored 17 books for aca­demic and gen­eral read­er­ship and some 50 schol­arly ar­ti­cles. Her sub­jects ranged from women in Shake­speare, Christo­pher Wren and Fran­cis Ba­con, Grayson Perry, Eras­mus and 17th-cen­tury Hol­land. Her best­sellers in­clude Worldly Goods: A New His­tory of the Re­nais­sance; In­ge­nious Pur­suits; Build­ing the Sci­en­tific Rev­o­lu­tion; and Go­ing Dutch: How England Plun­dered Hol­land’s Glory. Pub­lished by HarperCollins in the UK and USA, this won the Cundill Prize in His­tor­i­cal Lit­er­a­ture.

A reg­u­lar per­former on arts, his­tory and po­lit­i­cal pro­grammes for TV and ra­dio, Jar­dine had reg­u­lar slots on BBC4’s A Point of View. She also judged pres­ti­gious lit­er­ary prizes, in­clud­ing the Whit­bread Book Awards (1996), the 1999 Guardian First Book Award, and the Or­well Prize (2000). She was ap­pointed chair of judges for the 1997 Orange Prize and the Man Booker Prize in 2002.

Lisa Jar­dine was born to cel­e­brated par­ents; the sci­en­tist and broad­caster Ja­cob Bronowski, whose As­cent of Man TV se­ries made him a house­hold name in the 1970s, and the sculp­tor Rita Coblentz. She al­ways at­trib­uted her suc­cess to her fa­ther and made him the sub­ject of her Con­way Me­mo­rial Lecture, Things I Never Knew About My Fa­ther last year.

De­scrib­ing her­self as “a Jewish mother at heart”, this was never more ob­vi­ous than when she was chair­ing the judges for the Booker Prize in 2002. At her in­sis­tence she held all the meet­ings at her home, where she also pro­vided the food, in pref­er­ence to hav­ing ev­ery­one eat in restu­rants.

Ju­daism was to her that es­sen­tial cul­tural rich­ness and class­ness­ness, which she felt she owed to her Jewish back­ground. Ed­u­cated at Chel­tenham Ladies Col­lege, Newn­ham Col­lege Cam­bridge and Es­sex Univer­sity, she changed her first de­gree at Cam­bridge from maths to English in her fi­nal year. She took an MA in the Lit­er­ary The­ory of Trans­la­tion at Es­sex Univer­sity, but her PhD from Cam­bridge with a the­sis on Fran­cis Ba­con: Dis­cov­ery and the Art of Dis­course, later pub­lished by Cam­bridge Univer­sity Press, was a clear in­di­ca­tion of her de­vel­op­ing in­ter­est in the arts. It was a po­si­tion that nev­er­the­less ex­posed her to crit­i­cisms of be­ing a dilet­tante, or a free­wheeler, mov­ing be­tween many in­ter­ests rather than stick­ing to a sin­gle, rigid aca­demic dis­ci­pline.

A true peo­ple’s per­son, she en­joyed aca­demic gos­sip but re­jected the nar­row, aca­demic ca­reer path, which be­came clear in her love of broadcasting. Her elo­quent voice and en­gag­ing nar­ra­tive style made her a nat­u­ral broad­caster, bring­ing her schol­ar­ship to an au­di­ence ready and will­ing to lis­ten and learn.

Po­lit­i­cally, Jar­dine was a keen so­cial­ist in her youth, but re­signed from the Labour Party over the Iraq war, and con­sid­ered her­self “well to the left of Tony Blair”, whose doc­tri­naire style of New Labour she dis­trusted, de­spite re­join­ing the party later. She re­mained true to her fem­i­nist roots, which she had de­vel­oped in the 1970s, and much of her work, whether sci­en­tific, lit­er­ary or gen­eral, was tar­geted at the fem­i­nine an­gle.

Cer­tainly in­ter­est in the hu­man­i­ties and her nat­u­ral com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills made her much more than an aca­demic alone. She was an ac­ces­si­ble broad­caster and writer with a gift for easy hu­mour, none of which could con­ceal her im­pres­sive aca­demic ac­com­plish­ments.

Jar­dine was also a woman of ex­tra­or­di­nary in­tel­lect and verve, ac­cord­ing to a tweet from Olivia Hors­fell Turner. His­to­rian Si­mon Schama tweeted, “Lisa Jar­dine un­der­stood that to write of hu­man­ity you needed to be fully part of it,” while former deputy Labour leader Har­riet Har­man called her “a bea­con for women”. An im­por­tant part of her legacy is to have opened up the world of op­por­tu­ni­ties for suc­ceed­ing gen­er­a­tions of women.

In 2005 Jar­dine was treated for breast can­cer, which caused her to re­dou­ble her re­search ef­forts in or­der to achieve more. It was her work at the HFEA that prob­a­bly most clearly ex­pressed that link be­tween sci­ence, the pub­lic and ethics, ev­i­dent in her broad­cast on IVF and the mar­ket­ing of hope.

But her witty piece on the power of a red dress quotes Vogue and seam­lessly and art­fully morphs into an en­chant­ing his­tory les­son on the colour crim­son, banned by the Tu­dor mon­archs to any­one be­neath the sta­tus of knight.

On Ra­dio 4’s Desert Is­land Discs, her mu­si­cal choices ranged from An­nie Len­nox to El­gar’s E Mi­nor Cello Con­certo, from Bob Dy­lan’s A Hard Rain ‘s Gonna Fall to Kurt Weill’s Mack the Knife; from Juli­ette Greco’s Si Tu T’Imag­ines to Mozart’s Dove Sono from The Mar­riage of Fi­garo and Massenet’s bed­room duet from his bal­let Manon.

For her favourite song she chose Why, by An­nie Len­nox, whose lyric “Why don’t you ever keep your mouth shut?” is hardly some­thing her many fans would en­dorse. And, true to ex­pec­ta­tions, she opted to take the full 12 vol­umes of Eras­mus to her is­land.

Lisa Jar­dine is sur­vived by John, her chil­dren Daniel, Rachel and Sam, and eight grand­chil­dren.

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