John Adams obituary


My husband John Adams, emeritus professor of geography at College School London, who has died aged 85, was one of many first teachers to carefully discover the sector of danger, bridging the divide between data-driven and psychological approaches. “Threat administration – it’s not rocket science,” he would say. “It’s extra difficult.”

He produced groundbreaking work on street security and expanded the idea of ‘danger compensation’ – a principle that implies individuals modify their behaviour in response to perceived ranges of danger.

He posited the view that everybody has a person “danger thermostat”, which might frustrate the imposition of security measures by reasserting the extent of danger that a person was initially snug with.

This explains, for instance, why motorists drive sooner whereas carrying seatbelts. His 1995 ebook Threat is taken into account a number one research on the topic, whereas his work on the social implications of hypermobility – the expansion in long-distance journeys – was much more vital. The chance skilled and writer Roger Miles known as him “one of many best (and most accessible) thinkers in our subject”.

John was additionally an energetic environmentalist, becoming a member of the board of Associates of the Earth within the Nineteen Seventies, battling authorities plans to drive motorways by London and serving to to undercut the then slim cost-benefit evaluation the federal government was utilizing to decide on websites for main transport tasks.

His satirical article Westminster: the Fourth London Airport? (1970), for the geographical journal Space, confirmed that had the fee charged with discovering a website for the third London airport used these strategies, the airport would have ended up in Hyde Park. Whereas John was not the one critic of cost-benefit evaluation, his robust strategy mixed with a capability to seek out humour amid the statistics made him probably the most efficient at skewering its limitations.

Born in Toronto, Canada, John was the son of Gordon Adams, an insurance coverage govt, and Florence (nee Underwood). After the household moved to town of Brantford, John went to the highschool there. He then obtained BA and MA levels in geography on the College of Western Ontario, with an intervening two years instructing in Nigeria.

After finishing a PhD on the London Faculty of Economics in 1971, he grew to become a lecturer within the geography division at UCL and was made professor in 1998.

He married Linda Pritchard in 1970 and so they had two youngsters, Laura and Tom. They subsequently divorced. John and I met in 2008 by the Soulmates part of the Guardian and we married in 2011.

After John retired in 2002, invites to talk took him far and huge, addressing teams from oil drillers, pharmaceutical executives and MI6, to monetary analysts and parliamentary committees. His worsening well being lastly made journey unattainable, however he was typically interviewed by BBC Radio and often visited at residence by former college students and different students. He was form and beneficiant, calling himself a “cheerful fatalist”.

John is survived by me, Laura and Tom, and his granddaughter, Molly. His elder sister, Marion, died in 2022.


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