Professor Michael J (‘Mike’) Barnsley, our friend and colleague, died on 6 December 2007 in Swansea's Singleton Hospital, following a recurrence of the melanoma he had suffered from in recent years. Born in 1960, Mike grew up and was educated in North London and went on to gain a first-class honours degree, and a PhD in 1986, from the University of Reading. Following a lectureship at Birkbeck and University College London, in 1995 he became Research Professor of Remote Sensing and GIS in the Department of Geography at Swansea University. By March 2007 he was founding Director of the School of the Environment and Society and Pro Vice Chancellor of the University. He was a fervent and lifelong supporter of Arsenal Football Club and is survived by his parents John and Beryl, his brother Roger and his wife Lynwen.
Mike had an impressive and highly influential research career in remote sensing, mainly aimed at using directional effects in reflectance measurements to infer properties of the underlying land surface. He pursued this research agenda through significant contributions to the NASA MODIS BRDF/albedo product, through the development of a novel instrument for measuring hyper-spectral multi-angular information from space as the Land Science leader of the UK-ESA CHRIS-PROBA mission, and through his leadership of the NERC Earth Observation Centre of Excellence, CLASSIC.
In addition to this significant contribution to remote sensing, Mike had a tremendous impact on the management and development of Swansea University and beyond. Mike brought together the Departments of Geography, Biology, Development Studies, Sociology and Anthropology, and Public Policy to form the School of the Environment and Society in 2004. He relinquished his place as head of this successful new school in 2007 to become Pro Vice Chancellor of the University where he was having a significant impact on the development of the University estate. At the same time he was chosen to join the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) Panel in Geography where he was contributing so much to the academic review of geography research in the UK.
Testament to the high regard in which Mike was universally held by people who had come across him was the overwhelming turnout at his funeral service at Swansea University on 18 December. The tone of the service was set by his wife Lynwen who managed to say just the right words to deeply touch the diverse audience whose membership included friends and family, university colleagues, academics from the UK and beyond, and even staff from his favourite local restaurant. Mike will always be remembered as an inspirational teacher, a charming and unassuming gentleman, a marvellous mentor and a wonderful man.