Robin Flowerdew, who has died after living for many years with Parkinson’s disease, was a distinguished social geographer, whose research spanned population studies (especially migration), health and disease, and geodemographics. He was an expert in quantitative methods and Geographic Information Systems, and was influential in researching how to combine data collected for different areal units.
Robin took an Honours degree in Geography from Oxford in 1968 before heading to Northwestern University in the USA, then a leading centre in the application of mathematics and statistics in geography. Securing a PhD, he returned to the UK, initially as a Research Assistant at UCL (where his interests in population studies, working with John Salt, were cemented), then as a temporary lecturer in American Studies at Manchester University. In 1976 he joined the then-new Department of Geography at Lancaster University, remaining there until 2000 when he relocated to St Andrews University. There, he joined his former doctoral student, Paul Boyle, now Vice-Chancellor at Swansea.
At Lancaster Robin was a key figure in teaching quantitative methods, behavioural geography and geodemographics, and was highly-regarded as a dedicated and insightful supervisor of undergraduate dissertations and of doctoral students, several of whom have gone on to develop strong reputations in academia. During his time at Lancaster, he edited the RGS-IBG journal Area, a role which brought him into contact with a wide range of scholars who acknowledged the care and attention he gave to their work.
In the late 1980s and 1990s Robin played a key role in the establishment of the Centre of Excellence in GIS at Lancaster, one of a network of Regional Research Laboratories funded by ESRC. Working with applied statisticians and management scientists, he was at the forefront of embedding statistical methods into GIS software. At the same time, he maintained his interests in population studies which he developed further at St Andrews. His longstanding interests in research methods led to his co-editing (with David Martin) a widely-used collection of essays, Methods in Human Geography.
Robin was the archetypal good citizen, both in his departmental homes and particularly in his work for the RGS-IBG and Research Councils (notably ESRC). He was Chair of the Quantitative Methods Study Group in the 1990s, an active member of the Population Geography Study Group, and a member of the IBG Council and Publications committee before it linked to the RGS.
In his late 40s Robin found great happiness with his partner Jennifer (Jen), to whom we express sincere condolences.
Written by Professor Tony Gatrell, Lancaster University