[Air-l] Patrick Purcell, RIP

Barry Wellman wellman at chass.utoronto.ca
Sat Feb 10 14:12:26 PST 2007


  Barry Wellman   S.D. Clark Professor of Sociology   NetLab Director
  Centre for Urban & Community Studies          University of Toronto
  455 Spadina Avenue    Toronto Canada M5S 2G8    fax:+1-416-978-7162
  wellman at chass.utoronto.ca  http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman
        for fun: http://chass.utoronto.ca/oldnew/cybertimes.php

Patrick Purcell died at his home in London, February 8, 2007. Many of us
met Patrick at conferences, in my case ICS conferences at Oxford in 2003
and York this past September 2006. In addition, I -- and my Connected
Lives -- colleagues benefited from his incisive and enthusiastic editing
of our chapter for his recent _Networked Neighbourhoods_ book (Springer,
whom Patrick was always pushing to do better marketing -- quite he was,

Patrick was always inquisitive, charming, smart and original. At the end
of the York conference, we trained down to London and spent the evening
together. What a congenial partner, who's sunny side was marred only when
the Goethe Institute restaurant (across from his Imperial College of
Science) had not reserved his favourite table for us. His eyes sparkled
and has cane flashed, because he dearly wanted me to have the best view
for dinner. We had a jolly time. In his 80s, he was a lad in his 60s.

Patrick had a varied career. He was proud of his family's Irish
revolutionary background, and made it clear to me that he had "never
become English".

As a computer scientist, he was an enthusiastic convert to the social side
of things, and especially to network analysis. I always felt minded
encouragement from him. Not only was he a pleasure to work with
editorially, he was a pleasure to be with as a person.

Here is what the official Imperial College site says (with a great
picture): "Purcell's, work for over four decades, has reflected an abiding
interest in the application of media technology to various aspects of
human affairs, both from the perspectives of the social group and the
single personal user.... The underlying impetus informing this work seeks
to identify how advances in the technology of the information society may
be utilized most constructively in various social and personal
situations.... His career as an academic researcher has included
professorial appointments and/or senior research fellowships in a number
of leading academic institutions, including Imperial College of Science,
Technology & Medicine, London (1994 - to date), University of Ulster, UK
(1990 - 1994), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA (1982 - 1990)
and the Royal College of Art, London (1964 - 1981). During this time, he
has participated as a founding member, in the establishment of four
research laboratories, both in the UK & USA. His publication list extends
to over seventy papers and the editing of several books in his research


Sunny Bains, Patrick's colleague, wrote to me that Patrick's death was a
surprise to all.

They had just lunched last week. "Although, like most people of his age,
he had many health issues, he was nevertheless completely functional as
far as we could tell, so his death has been a great shock among his
colleagues here. He was a fantastic character to the end and we will truly
miss him."

There is a memorial site for people to record their thoughts:

Bains further wrote to me, "He was supposed to go to a research group
dinner last night. When he didn't show up (very unlike him) the
administrator of the group decided to check on him on the way home. His
lights were off (again unusual) and she called the police. They found him
sitting in a chair. What exactly he died of we may never know...."

I think it's just like Patrick: sitting in his chair, with a smile,
looking forward to the future. What a way to go!

	Barry Wellman

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