John Gardner at Home

Obituary for The Oxford Times by James Roberts. The published version is available here.

A brilliant academic and much-loved member of the West Oxford community has died, aged 54.

John Gardner was a world-renowned philosopher of law and held the prestigious role of professor of jurisprudence at Oxford University for 16 years.

When he was not visiting the world's great academic institutions, Prof Gardner was a familiar face in Osney Island, where he lived with his family.

John Gardner was born on March 23, 1965 in Glasgow and grew up in an academic family.

His father, William, was a lecturer at Glasgow University, while his mother, Sylvia, was a secondary school teacher. John had a younger brother, called David.

A proud Glaswegian, he spent his childhood in the city, but came to Oxford in 1983 to study at New College.

There, he met his first wife, Margaret Bolton, who he lived with for many years and married in the early 2000s, but they separated shortly after.

Prof Gardner became an examination fellow at All Souls College in 1986, a position he held for five years. Around this time he moved to London, but divided his time between the capital and Oxford.

While at All Souls, he completed his bachelor of civil law (BCL), the equivalent of a masters degree, and in 1991, became a fellow and tutor at Brasenose College.

In 1996, he was appointed a reader in legal philosophy at King's College London, but returned to Oxford in 2000 and became professor of jurisprudence aged just 35 - this showed his academic ability.

Prof Gardner was renowned by scholars for his originality and insight into the law, but was equally appreciated by students, who found him funny and generous.

He was also IT fellow for several years, and created University College's very first website.

Prof Gardner loved to travel and held visiting positions at some of the top universities in America, Australia and New Zealand, with many academics making the return trip thanks to his influence.

In 2003, Prof Gardner met his second wife, Jenny, who also worked in the law faculty.

He moved in with her in Osney Island in 2006 and the couple had a child, Audra, in 2009, while he was also father figure to Jenny's two other children, Henrik and Annika.

Prof Gardner soon became known in the community and helped elderly neighbours during the floods of 2007.

He married Jenny in 2012 - one year before he was elected a fellow of the British Academy - and the pair would often tend allotments on Twenty Pound Meadow, where he built his wife a greenhouse.

The professor enjoyed going to his local pub, The Punter, on Sunday afternoons, and was a keen walker who regularly ambled through the countryside around the city.

He would regularly swim at Hinksey Outdoor Pool in the mornings, while he had a long-held love of bass guitar.

Prof Gardner was diagnosed with cancer last October, but remained active and even took seminars until the final weeks of his life.

He died on July 11 and is survived by his wife and three children, his mother and his brother.

His funeral took place in the All Souls College Chapel last Thursday morning.

1st August 2019