ALWYN SCARTH B.A., M.A., Ph.D., (Cantab).
Alwyn Scarth was born on 4th September 1936 at Morley Hall, Leeds, one of five children. He was educated at Batley Grammar School from 1947-55 and matriculated at St Catherine’s College, Cambridge in 1955, where he graduated B.A. in 1958, and Ph.D. in 1962. While there, he won a scholarship to study in France at the University of Clermont-Ferrand between 1958-59 and 1960-61. This began his lifelong love of the country. After graduating with his Ph.D he moved to Dundee to teach Geography at Queen’s College, St Andrews University (from 1967, University of Dundee).
His taught Geomorphology, the Geography of France, and American Studies. His ability to articulate complex topics lucidly was a characteristic of his lecturing style that ensured his option classes were heavily subscribed. He devoted considerable energy to the pastoral care of his students to enable each to achieve their potential. He also played squash regularly, often with students, many of whom became lifelong friends.
His research focused primarily on volcanoes. Following early retirement in 1993 he published several books, including Volcanoes (1994); Savage Earth (1997), a work commissioned to accompany the television series of the same name; Vulcan’s Fury (1999); La Catastrophe (2002); and Vesuvius: A Biography (2009), the latter being a tour de force in which he integrated information from geomorphology, contemporary historical accounts, and translations of classical source material to expose the changing impact of Europe’s most dangerous volcano on the social life of those living in its shadow. He was also principal co-author of Volcanoes of Europe (2001) and translated, from the French, classic texts on The Geology of France, and The Geology of the Continental Margins for the benefit of English readers lacking his linguistic skills.
His range of interests and knowledge made him the perfect dinner guest. He was equally comfortable discussing contemporary society and politics, gardening, literature, history, culture, or football. He was also a keen spectator of horse racing and could recount the lineage of all of the famous classic winners. Opera was another passion which he enjoyed especially on visits to the Bastille Opera, and the Opera Garnier in Paris. He travelled extensively and particularly enjoyed annual visits to Venice and to the Greek islands.
Alwyn Scarth was a true scholar and a gentleman.
He died in Yorkshire on 25th April 2017 and will be missed greatly by an extensive circle of family and friends deprived of his sparkling personality, wit, and sense of humour.
Professor Michael Pacione MA PhD DSc FRSGS
Emeritus Professor of Geography
University of Strathclyde