The Academy is deeply saddened to learn of the recent unexpected death of Professor John Urry FAcSS, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Lancaster University. John Urry was a founding Fellow (or Academician as they were then known) of the Academy of Social Sciences in 1999 and gave his time and wisdom to its development with outstanding generosity, serving as a member of Council for 6 formative years, from 2006 until 2012. During this time he also chaired the Events Committee and set up and chaired the Publications Committee. He delivered the Academy’s Annual Lecture only last year, speaking as engagingly as ever on Offshore Worlds and Social Futures.
He was widely and internationally acknowledged as a leading figure in sociology, making seminal contributions to the traditional fields of sociology, in particular social theory, the analysis of changing forms of organised capitalism and the sociology of nature. But he was also notable as a pioneer of new interdisciplinary fields of enquiry which incorporate but extend sociological studies. The most significant of these was the study of ‘mobilities’, which unpicks the complex issues surrounding transport and human movement. At Lancaster University he was Director of the Centre for Mobilities Research and he established the journal Mobilities. He collaborated with the BIS Foresight Programme on the Future of Cities (BIS Foresight, Author of Living in the City, 2014). John Urry’s willingness and enthusiasm to bring together fields of work that have hitherto not been regarded as natural bedfellows led to him being a collaborator on several projects originating from natural and physical science and even engineering. His energetic enthusiasm to push knowledge and understanding forward in new directions made his contribution to society greater than many.
He made a major contribution to the academic profession of sociology, including as Chair of the RAE Sociology Panel in 1996 and 2001, as editor of the International Library of Sociology (the world’s oldest sociology series) from 1990 to 2013 and a variety of senior management and leadership positions in sociology and the social sciences at Lancaster University, a leading social science university in the UK.
All those of us who had the privilege of working with him at the Academy recall his gentle and kind manner and the way in which he was always prepared to do whatever he could to help build the organisation.