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Obituary – John Roundell Palmer, The 4th Earl of Selborne

Published: 4 March 2021
Lord Selborne
John Roundell Palmer, The 4th Earl of Selborne

The University is sad to report that our former Chancellor and long-term colleague and friend, John Roundell Palmer, The 4th Earl of Selborne GBE FRS DL, died last month at the age of 80.

Lord Selborne served the University well as Chancellor from 1996-2006. Throughout his life and career, he dedicated much of his time to supporting the environment, taking a particular interest in ecology. This was very much reflected in his support for University activities, for example chairing the 10th Anniversary Vitacress Conservation Trust Annual Forum in 2016. The Earl was founding Patron and former Chair of the Trust which he acknowledged at the event in 2016 was an exemplar for how stakeholders should work together to solve complex environmental problems.

In 2005, he chaired a major conference on the University’s Boldrewood Campus to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the home and gardens of the 18th century naturalist Gilbert White, considered the founding father of ecology who lived near the Hampshire village of Selborne.

Lord Selborne also performed the honours in officially opening the University’s Chancellor’s Court Halls at Glen Eyre in Southampton and shook the hand of thousands of graduating students as part of his ceremonial duties. In addition to attending many other events on campus, including the annual Wellington Lecture, Lord Selborne also served on the advisory panel for the National Oceanography Centre Southampton and actively supported the University’s Gift of Sight charity as well as the campaign to construct the Centre for Cancer Immunology.

Professor Mark E Smith, the University’s President and Vice-Chancellor, has extended the University’s condolences to Countess Selborne and family, praising Lord Selborne as someone who “took his role as Chancellor very seriously and graciously, playing an important role at the University of Southampton in a number of different ways. We are very grateful for the impact he had on our progress and achievements having benefitted from his many contributions, and I know there are staff here at Southampton who remember him with great fondness.”

As a member of the House of Lords, Lord Selborne served on and Chaired the Science and Technology Committee (Lords). He also chaired the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and was a member of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. He also served as President of the Royal Geographical Society and was Chair of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

In 1991 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was also a Fellow of the Linnean Society and Vice-Patron of the Royal Entomological Society.

Lord Selborne was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 1987 and Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) in 2011, both for services to science.

The family is planning a memorial service to honour The Earl of Selborne, to be held later this year.

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