My PhD supervisor, Dick Grove, who has died aged 99, was a bodily geographer whose analysis on long-term environmental change in Africa helped form understanding of previous local weather change. On the time of his loss of life Dick was probably the most senior of the Royal Geographical Society’s 16,000 fellows.
His analysis between the Fifties and 70s on area expeditions within the Sahel, Tibesti, the Kalahari and the Ethiopian Rift established the size of local weather change on African desert margins. He and his college students made cutting-edge use of air images to map historical sand seas across the Sahara and the Kalahari, exhibiting huge desert enlargement on the peak of the final glaciation (20,000 to 12,500 years in the past). Surveys of the fossil shorelines of historical lakes confirmed the “greening” of the Sahara within the early Holocene (10,000 to five,000 years in the past).
Within the early 70s, when worldwide consideration was targeted on the African Sahel by the tragedy of drought and famine, Dick’s analysis discovered a brand new and vital coverage viewers, difficult glib Malthusian arguments about inhabitants progress and “desertification”. From the late 80s, Dick’s pursuits expanded to the environmental historical past of the Mediterranean, documenting the complicated interaction between setting and peoples from the earliest occasions to the current.
Dick was born in Evesham, Worcestershire, to Christine (nee Hughes), a milliner, and Edwin Grove, a fruit and vegetable grower. In 1941, after attending Prince Henry’s grammar faculty available in the market city, Dick went to St Catharine’s School, Cambridge, to check geography. From 1942 to 1945 he was a pilot within the Royal Air Power, serving primarily in Air Coaching Command in Canada. He returned to Cambridge, lastly graduating with a first-class diploma in 1947.
He labored briefly for the Colonial Workplace in Nigeria on the issue of soil erosion, earlier than returning to Cambridge as a demonstrator within the division of geography in 1949. He was appointed to a lectureship in 1954, and remained in Cambridge for the remainder of his profession, retiring as lecturer in 1982, though he continued as director of the Centre of African Research in 1986. He was elected a fellow of Downing School in 1963, finally serving as senior tutor and vice grasp.
Dick was a real geographer of very large pursuits. He was a considerably diffident lecturer, however a extremely stimulating supervisor and a beneficiant colleague. An acute and wry observer of landscapes and folks, he had a profound affect on science and on these he labored with and taught.
He married Jean Clark, a Cambridge glaciologist, in 1954, they usually had six kids. Jean died in 2001 and their son Richard, a pioneering environmental historian, died in 2020. In 2009, Dick married Ann Spherical.
She survives him, as do his kids Jane, Lucy, Invoice, Alison and Jonathan, 15 grandchildren and a great-grandchild.