Jean Conran obituary

Publié le par The Guardian - Nicholas Conran

The Guardianpublished 12/01/2012 at 16:15 GMT by Nicholas Conran

The full and energetic life of my sister Jean Conran, who has died aged 80, was devoted to her ideals of education and science.

Jean Conran
Our father, Denis, had spent the whole of the first world war in the trenches, twice decorated and just missing the battle of the Somme by chance after an exploding lamp damaged his eye. After the war, he developed a passion for the open air, natural history and camping, which he passed on to his children.

The blitz in 1940 got him where the trenches had failed and Jean and I, his two eldest children, went to boarding school, leaving our younger sister, Pauline, behind with our mother, Dot. Jean soon rose high in her class but rebelled, ran away and ended up in a police station. She was sent home and the headteacher announced to the assembled school: "There goes a girl who will come to no good." This was the prelude to Jean's distinguished educational career.

After three years of training at Froebel College in Roehampton, south-west London (now part of Roehampton University), she took three further degrees while working, acquiring a formidable knowledge of geology, zoology, botany and child learning. She could talk in a fascinating way on a mind-boggling range of subjects. She taught at tough London schools, ran the children's department at the Natural History Museum from 1968 until 1975, and as senior lecturer at Roehampton from 1976 created a series of teacher-training courses in primary science which inspired generations of students.

Jean retired in 1988, but only to buy a Welsh hill farm with access to moors, cliffs and seashore, which she set up as a nature centre for school parties. This ran successfully for 10 years until funding was cut.

She loved holidays, which for her meant strenuous activity in remote places and often extreme climate, with a scientific purpose. For instance, in June 1961 she was on a London University geological mapping expedition in the Arctic circle when five colleagues lost their lives in a freak wave. She and the other woman in the party were trapped for days in a tiny tent in a blizzard. She also travelled down the Amazon, starting in a dug-out canoe; went five times to the interior of Iceland, ending up as a party guide; and was still scrambling up volcanoes in her late 70s.

Despite many lasting friendships, Jean chose to live alone. Freedom came first. She loved organising others as well as herself, but we forgave her – she had so much to offer. She is survived by me and Pauline, four nephews and a niece.

Publié dans Avis de décès

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