Very sad news that Arnold Aspinall – former Head of Archaeological Sciences at Bradford University and probably the most respected, but understated, archaeological geophysicist – passed away on 9th April 2013. He was a true gentleman in all respects; a quiet academic, who stood head and shoulders above others in his field. He was largely, if not wholly, responsible for the position geophysics now holds in archaeology in Britain and Ireland. He was also a key player in keeping alive (at its time) the most innovative archaeological science department in the UK; probably the world. A man who never sort publicity or personal gain; he loved his field of work, his students and his colleagues. He dedicated his life to his wife, Priscilla, who died far too young, and his children, who are rightly so proud of their native ‘Lancashire/Yorkshire’ father. He looked after more than one generation of students; he always had an open door to discuss both academic and personal issues. He acted as a mentor to all around him (academics and other colleagues) and he inspired study in students at all levels.
I first met Arnold in 1974 – almost 40 years ago – and he changed my life: first as a student and then he was instrumental in my becoming the first ‘commercial archaeological geophysicist’ (with British Gas). He helped my setting up GSB in the mid-1980s; he watched over the development of instruments (with Roger Walker) and the increasing use of geophysical techniques in archaeology. He was actively involved in surveys from the 1960s until very recently (2012) carrying out work into his 80s. I had the pleasure of persuading him to ‘work’ on two Time Teams, when he was in his 70s. (I was grateful that Tony Robinson was overruled when he advocated Arnold should replace me…)
I had the good fortune of presenting a paper in honour of 25 years of ‘his’ department at Bradford and later in celebration of his 80th birthday; most of the time he was too modest to accept recognition of his achievements, but to see him shed a small tear on being awarded (a long overdue) Honorary Professorship was a moving moment for many of his friends…
The tributes will be from far and wide; my personal tribute is simply a large belated ‘thank you’ – something I know he would brush to one side – so I will simply drink a large Highland Park whisky and hope lots of people will join me….”