12 Aug 2016
Obituary for Professor Jack Meadows
PROFESSOR ARTHUR JACK MEADOWS 1934-2016
Jack Meadows, one of the world’s most influential Information Scientists has died. Arthur Jack Meadows was born in Sheffield on 24th January 1934. His family moved around a lot, so he attended more than 15 schools including, at age 16, Archbishop Tenison School, where the headmaster recognized his potential and encouraged him to apply for Oxbridge. After completing his National Service, he took a First in Physics at New College Oxford, staying on to complete a DPhil in Astronomy. But his interests were broad, and in the early 1960s, he studied further at University College London, where he was awarded an MSc in the History and Philosophy of Science. As a Fulbright Scholar he travelled to the USA and subsequently spent 1.5 years between 1959 and 1961 working as Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois. On his return to the UK, Jack took a position as Lecturer at the University of St. Andrews, where he stayed until 1963.
At this point his career came to a turning point. Being proficient in Russian, a language he learned during his National Service, Jack was appointed as Assistant Keeper in the Slavonic section of the British Museum library. It was this experience, together with the challenges of working with large physical science datasets that helped to develop his interest in the science of information organisation, communication, storage and retrieval.
In 1965 Jack moved to the University of Leicester, as a Lecturer in Physics, and started the Department of Astronomy. He remained at Leicester for two decades becoming Professor of Astronomy and History of Science. His career in astronomy culminated in having a minor planet named after him in recognition of his renown – Asteroid 4600 Meadows. He is quoted at the time as saying ‘I am delighted to think that there is an object in the solar system that will carry my name long after I am dead.' He left Leicester to pursue his ever-growing interest in Information Science, taking up a position in 1986 as Professor of Library and Information Studies in the Department of Library and Information Studies at Loughborough University. At Loughborough, he played a number of senior managerial roles: initially as Head of Department (1986 – 1990), then as Dean of Education and Humanities (1992 – 1994), and finally as Pro-Vice Chancellor (1995 – 1996). Between 1986 and 1997 he was also Director of the British Library-funded Library and Information Management Research Unit (subsequently Library and Information Statistics Unit (LISU)) at Loughborough. In addition to being an inspirational teacher, Jack authored or co-authored hundreds of publications in all the academic domains in which he worked. His best work, like many scientists, is embodied in the many papers he wrote in learned journals. He retired from the University in 2001 but always maintained strong links, ‘popping in’ regularly to see how things were going, and helping out wherever he could.
Jack was not just an academic star – he was also a friend and mentor to many who were fortunate enough to meet him, students and colleagues alike. He was always encouraging, supportive and cheerful, offering wisdom and insight as well as warmth and humanity. His wry sense of humour is exemplified by his listing among his recreations in Who’s Who ‘sleeping in meetings’. He was a regular worshipper at Leicester Cathedral, where for many years he was also a warden. He and his wife, Jane, were welcoming and gracious hosts to friends and colleagues at summer afternoon tea parties held in the beautiful garden which she cherished.
Jack died peacefully on 18 July 2016 with family members at his side, listening to one of his favourite pieces of music – the Mozart Clarinet Concerto. He is survived by Jane, their son and two daughters, and many grandchildren. He will be sorely missed.