Professor Richard Aldrich, Emeritus Professor of the History of Education at the Institute of Education, University of London, who has sadly passed away on 20 September 2014, was one of the most distinguished historians of education of his generation, and one of the most significant figures in the national and international field. He was secretary of the UK History of Education Society for five years before becoming its president from 1989 to 1993, and was then chair / president of the International Standing Conference for the History of Education from 1994 until 1997.
Richard was appointed to a lecturing post at the Institute of Education in 1973, and was to stay for the next thirty years until his retirement in 2003. Together with colleagues such as Peter Gordon, Margaret Bryant and Dennis Dean, he established the IOE’s preeminent national position in this area of study.
Richard consistently drew attention to the connections between past and current issues in education, and to the political dimensions of educational reform. The edited selection of his key articles published as Lessons from History of Education (2006) exemplified his scholarly approach to historical writing. He continued to research, write and attend conferences in his retirement, and his final major publications on education for survival (2010) and neuroscience (2013) were among his most original, challenging and significant work. His research was widely recognised for its rigour and trenchant insights, qualities that stood out as he analysed the historical context of the Education Reform Act while it was being developed in the late 1980s.
Richard’s most substantial work included studies of Sir John Pakington and Joseph Payne, biographical dictionaries of educationists in England, Europe and North America, and an excellent centenary history of the IOE. Two Festschriften have been published in his honour, one produced by Tom O’Donoghue and Clive Whitehead (2004) and another by David Crook and Gary McCulloch (2007).
Richard enjoyed a full family life with his wife Averil and his children and grandchildren, and was a lifelong supporter of Charlton Football Club. He made a large number of friends around the world and was a wise and trusted confidant to many. He was a role model and a gentle adviser for younger academics and for generations of students, and will be mourned and missed in equal measure.
By Professor Gary McCulloch