Professor John Laver (1938–2020)

We regret to announce the death of Professor John Laver (1938–2020). The Council and officers of the Association extend their condolences to his family and friends.

The IPA Secretary sent the following message to members on 12 May:

It is with great sadness that I have to inform you that former President of the IPA (1991-5) Professor Emeritus John Laver CBE, FBA, FRSE, passed away in Scotland on 6th May after an extended period of ill health.
John was Professor Emeritus of Speech Science at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, but the large part of his career was built at the University of Edinburgh where he was based from 1966-2000, becoming Professor of Phonetics in 1985. John’s influence on the field of Phonetics was very significant indeed, in particular his hugely influential work on the phonetic description of voice quality beautifully set out in his eponymous 1980 CUP monograph.
John provided mentoring and support to generations of Phonetics and Speech Science researchers both in Edinburgh and beyond, applying his customary incisive analytic skills, his rigorous approach to phonetic taxonomy, and his unfailing ability to shed new light on the complexities of phonetic theory. John was a relentless advocate for the field of Phonetics, seeing it as occupying a pivotal position at the intersection of a wide range of disciplines. This vision was spectacularly brought to life in 1984 when John established the highly innovative Centre for Speech Technology Research at Edinburgh which he directed from 1984-89, and then chaired until 1994.
In the latter years of his career, John served as Vice-Principal of Edinburgh University and held a number of external appointments, including a period as Chair of the British Academy's Humanities Research Board during which he steered its transition into the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council. After he was appointed to Queen Margaret University in 2001 John undertook a number of senior academic roles, including a period as Acting Principal, before his retirement in 2004.
John’s loss will be deeply felt by many members of the IPA who have worked or studied with him over the years, or who have had their understanding of the field shaped by reading his work or by hearing one of his inspirational talks. For those of us who knew John very well as a colleague and/or student, it does feel like the end of an era.

Gerry Docherty
(Secretary, IPA)