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John Fox

Mr John Fox, BSc, EEng, MICE

As many colleagues will already be aware, Mr John Fox, former Reader in Civil Engineering, died on 29th May 2012.

John Fox joined the University as a lecturer in 1960, following an already distinguished career. After graduating in Civil Engineering from Bristol University and serving with the Royal Engineers, he undertook a range of roles, moving between public service engineering and higher education in both the UK and Ghana; and the rich variety of knowledge and experiences that he gained provided an invaluable underpinning to his academic career at Leeds.

John was an outstanding teacher, with an infectious enthusiasm for his subject and a singular ability to engage with his students that was reflected in the perennial popularity of his lectures. His own academic curiosity knew no bounds, and he was always eager to encourage his students to likewise think for themselves; exercise imagination as well as rigorously interrogate the evidence; challenge received wisdom; and to value learning from experience (and the potential for the thrill of scientific breakthrough) above any fear of failure or of flouting convention. He enjoyed, and was highly skilled at, the process of nurturing original thought, and was always very generous in crediting his students and colleagues for their ideas and contributions. In addition to his undergraduate teaching, he was also highly sought-after as a PhD supervisor (inspiring his many students to successes in industry, academia and the public service) and as a lively delegate at national and international conferences. His contributions to such gatherings were held in high repute not just for the impeccable research with which they would be supported, but also for the wit and energy with which they would be delivered and for the new perspectives they would present – John truly thought ‘outside the box’ long before the phrase became common coinage.

John’s research interests spanned the engineering and medical fields, with a particular focus during his early career upon blood flows that complemented his later interests in air pressure transients (for example within the Channel Tunnel) and the flow of oil in North Sea pipelines. He produced important publications on unsteady flows in pipe networks. He was to return in later years to his medical interests, which took on a new dimension when a heart attack compelled him to reduce his teaching activity. Although greatly regretting the reduction of the lectures that he, and his students, had found so stimulating, he spotted the opportunity in the situation to explore new ideas related to his earlier work, which he pursued with characteristic vigour.

John Fox, who retired in 1988, was a dedicated researcher, engineer and teacher, who made a remarkable contribution to the Department of Civil Engineering, but perhaps even more significantly, who touched individually so many students, and inspired in them the confidence to formulate their own ideas and carve out their own careers. He will be remembered with great esteem and warm affection by all those who worked and studied alongside him at the University.

The funeral has already taken place, and in memory of Mr Fox, the flag on the Parkinson Building was flown at half-mast on the day.

John is survived by his two daughters.