Thornes, John B. 1940–2008

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Thornes, John B. 1940–2008

(John Barrie Thornes)


See index for CA sketch: Born December 27, 1940, in England; died July 17, 2008, in England. Geomorphologist, geographer, meteorologist, weather reporter, desert researcher, educator, art critic, editor, and author. Thornes was able to turn his passion for the landscape into an award-winning academic career. After early work as a weather reporter for The Travel Show, a television presentation of the British Broadcasting Corporation, Thornes became a professor of geography and meteorology at a series of British institutions, including the London School of Economics and Political Science and Bedford College, both of the University of London, and the University of Bristol. In 1992 he settled at King's College, London, where he had concentrated his research on erosion and its role in transforming semi-arid lands into deserts. He also developed a lifelong interest in Spain, returning there often for research and teaching appointments. Though he carried out fieldwork in South America and visited South Africa as a Rhodes fellow, Thornes never lost his focus on southern Europe. In the early 1990s, under the auspices of the European Union, he became the coordinator of the Mediterranean Desertification and Land Use program known as MEDALUS, a collaborative effort involving more than fifty universities and field stations, all dedicated to mitigating the encroachment of deserts into Mediterranean areas. Thornes was the recipient of substantial grant support from scientific organizations and was an active member of the Royal Geographical Society and the British Geomorphological Research Group. His contributions to scholarship in Spain were acknowledged in 2005, when he received an honorary degree from the University of Murcia, where much of his Spanish research had taken place. Thornes wrote or edited several technical works, but one book in particular reflected the impact of the landscape on his personal life. As a museum visitor and trained observer of the weather, he had often been disturbed by the inaccurate way that even the most gifted artists rendered their skyscapes. He was so pleased when he encountered the authentically presented skies of British painter John Constable that he was compelled to publish a whole book about the subject: John Constable's Skies: A Fusion of Art and Science (1999). Thornes's mainstream scientific publications include Geomorphology and Time (1977), Land-Use and Prehistory in South-East Spain (1985), Atlas of Mediterranean Environments in Europe (1998), and Environmental Issues in the Mediterranean: Processes and Perspectives from the Past and Present (2003).



Times (London, England), August 4, 2008, p. 50.

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Thornes, John B. 1940–2008

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