We were saddened to learn that Jeremy Whitehand passed away on 26 June 2021. Jeremy joined the University of Birmingham in 1971 and though he retired in 2005 he continued to be actively involved with the School, running research meetings, supervising PhD students and hosting visiting fellows.
Jeremy was born in Reading in 1938 and would go on to study geography at the University of Reading, writing his undergraduate thesis on the geographical character of the region surrounding Amersham and Chesham. This project included an examination of urban development and land use patterns informed by an analysis of historical maps; these were themes which would remain core to his interests for his whole career. He stayed at Reading to complete his PhD which examined the settlement geography of the wider Chiltern Hills region under the supervision of the historical geographer Peter Wood.
Jeremy was appointed to a junior demonstratorship at the University of Newcastle in 1963 and the following three years were pivotal to his career as he fell into the orbit of the historical urban geographer MRG Conzen. The two became fast friends and the Conzenian approach to urban morphology fundamentally shaped Jeremy’s subsequent research and teaching, particularly his love of getting out into the field to examine the evolution of towns around the world.
After five years as a lecturer at the University of Glasgow, Jeremy joined the Department of Geography at Birmingham and, alongside Terry Slater, founded the Urban Morphology Research Group in 1974. The group continued to meet regularly until the interruption of campus activities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Over the years, he supervised 58 PhD students and was a prolific author, publishing six books, 32 book chapters, 81 journal papers, and 75 conference papers as well as many editorial and commentary pieces. He perhaps made an even larger contribution as an editor, including a stint overseeing Area for the Institute of British Geographers. Jeremy was one of the driving forces behind setting up the International Seminar on Urban Form (ISUF) in 1994 and went on to establish its journal Urban Morphology in 1997. He continued as its editor for 22 years and was passionate about developing the reach of the journal beyond the anglophone sphere. Following his retirement in 2005, Jeremy continued expanding the frontiers of urban morphology as a discipline, in particular becoming very engaged with Chinese scholars. His ability and willingness to encourage and support early career researchers remained undimmed. And he continued to be research active, pre-recording a keynote for this year’s ISUF conference giving an overview of how the discipline of urban morphology has evolved; this final paper will be available shortly on YouTube.
Jeremy had a well-deserved reputation among his students for being an enthusiastic teacher who was tremendously generous with his time. Colleagues will remember an urbane and thoughtful man, with a genuine and wide-ranging intellectual curiosity. No matter what the topic of a research seminar he could always find informed and insightful questions to ask, even if he often managed to make a connection back to urban morphology!
Jeremy is survived by his wife Susan, his sons, daughter and grandchildren.
Words courtesy of Dr Phil Jones, School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham