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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  News & Events  /  News  /  News Archive  /  2013  /  January 2013  /  Bill Campbell (1941-2013)

Bill Campbell (1941-2013)

Death of former colleague

Bill Campbell (1941-2013)

We are saddened to learn of the death on 3rd January of William Johnston (Bill) Campbell, who was a lecturer and senior lecturer in the Department from 1967 to 1992.

Bill was a kind and generous colleague, always ready to help students and staff to resolve computational problems, especially those related to computerized mapping, at a time when their significance in geography teaching and research was rapidly expanding.

He graduated with a First Class Degree in Geography from the University of Glasgow and then spent a year as a teaching assistant at Northwestern University (Illinois) before serving as a demonstrator at the University of Bristol (1965-67). At this time he was carrying out innovative work on retail and transport modelling in an urban context, focusing on applications in the London Borough of Ealing. He therefore knew London well when he arrived at UCL, where he was appointed to provide specialist expertise in quantitative methods teaching. While at UCL he also instructed masters students in remote sensing and created MAPICS, a pioneering software package for digital cartography that was widely adopted by academic, government and commercial organisations in the UK and abroad.

Bill also became responsible for creating a computer infrastructure for the geography department during a period of unprecedented hardware development. At first this supported work based on the College’s centralised IBM 360 capacity, but later, after the move to the Bedford Way building in 1979, he exploited the new availability of mini computer servers.  Bill led a bold development programme which established a departmental cluster, based initially on Prime and, later, VAX servers, which was incorporated into the College network when this was developed after the late 1980s. He also introduced personal computing, based initially on BBC Micros and followed by later incarnations of desktop computing. Geography thus led UCL in developing computer teaching and research support for disciplines outside the mainstream sciences.

Bill spent much of his time helping others, often showing heroic patience with students, and placing many colleagues and graduate students in his debt for assistance with computing and automated mapping. His expertise was also widely appreciated by researchers in other UCL departments, including psychology, photogrammetry, planning and computing studies.

In responding to this rapidly changing environment, Bill’s professional profile was not conventionally academic. He sometimes expressed discomfort in an institution where formal publication was increasingly expected, especially after the introduction of the first national Research Assessment Exercise in 1986. He contemplated leaving academia on several occasions, and this finally happened in 1992, three years after he had been made a Senior Lecturer. Thereafter, he refashioned his career as a consultant, spending his final years at Wigtown in Scotland. Bill Campbell was an exceptionally valuable colleague, whose personal and scientific qualities as an innovator, teacher and friend were regarded highly by many more than he himself perhaps ever recognised.

Hugh Clout and Peter Wood

(Additional information from Tony Nicholson)

See also:


Bill Campbell c.1980