Professor David Arnold

In Memoriam

David Arnold

Professor David Arnold died suddenly on 25th October 2016.

David was the founder of the Cultural Informatics Research Group in 2002, and he remained its director until his retirement in Spring 2016.

David’s vision was of a multi- and inter-disciplinary research group which could provide academic research in support of the cultural heritage sector. Under his guidance, the group developed into a vibrant inter-disciplinary community, holding major European research grants, collaborating with major national and international museums, archives, heritage agencies and businesses, hosting events, visitors and students from across the world, and celebrated in a major 10th anniversary event in 2014.

David’s career spanned many realms. He was involved in over 45 years of research in the design of interactive computer graphics systems and their application in architecture, engineering, cartography, scientific visualisation and, over the past 18 years, in cultural heritage.

David was educated at the University of Cambridge and had an MA in Engineering and Computer Science and a PhD in Architecture. He subsequently spent 24 years at the University of East Anglia and 14 years at the University of Brighton.

At Brighton he was Dean of the Faculty of Management and Information Sciences and later the University’s Director of Research Initiatives and founding Dean of the Brighton Doctoral College, all whilst simultaneously being the inspiration behind and the Director of the Cultural Informatics Research Group.

But it was David’s impact on the cultural heritage community for which he was best known. David was co-ordinator of the EPOCH Network of Excellence under the EU’s Framework 6 programme (FP6), involving 95 partners. It was this project perhaps more than most that sealed David’s position as a leading light in the European digital heritage community.

More recently he coordinated 3D-COFORM, a large scale integrating research project under FP7. He also co-founded the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Science and Engineering for Arts, Heritage and Archaeology, a collaboration between UCL, Oxford and Brighton which will deliver 60 post-doctoral future leaders for Heritage Science.

He was the founding Editor-in-Chief of the ACM Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage and was a past Chair of the European Association for Computer Graphics.

For those people fortunate enough to work with David as part of the Cultural Informatics team, this loss is that of both a fantastic leader and colleague, as well as a wonderfully supportive friend.

With so many roles, David touched the lives of many in the University and well beyond, but it was his humanity that truly defined him. Compassion and warmth were always at the core of everything he did and, in his team, we all benefited from his amazing generosity, his huge sense of humour and his sheer kindness. David was an absolute gentleman, unstinting in nature, supportive, scrupulously fair and very caring.

He will be greatly missed.

Eurographics Obituary

Euromed 2016

If you would like to leave a personal tribute to David, or a message for his family, please use the comments box below


I was very saddened to hear of the death of David Arnold. As one who’s had 12 happy years since I worked, it’s very sad that he was unable to have so long a retirement, but I know he’ll have enjoyed the work he continued until very recently.

I first met David about thirty years ago at Eurographics conferences in Amsterdam and Vienna when he led relaxed evening excursions to multinational restaurants. Later, I became an external examiner to one of the courses he was involved with at UEA, and got to know the depth and quality of his professional work. The enjoyment continued as I was honoured to be picked up at Norwich station by Dave in his modern Morgan, a magnificent red monster of which he was justifiably proud.

In Robin Forrest’s department and with the help of colleagues such as Andy Day and a stream of bright students, Dave created visually convincing computer models of large historical environments at a time when memory was preciously scarce. I examined many students there, and it was clear to me how much they benefitted from Dave’s teaching and from the platforms he created for them to exploit. He was genuinely innovative in developing new methods for creation of the large data bases needed to depict such natural environments.

Although his move to Brighton coincided with my retirement, so I didn’t keep up with his latest work, it is clear that he was equally well thought of in his new professional life at Brighton.

I send my condolences to his family and former colleagues.

Huw Jones
(former Professor of Computer Graphics at the Lansdown Centre for Electronic Arts, Middlesex University)

David was THE best 'boss' anyone could ever have. I had the pleasure of working with him for four years and during that time we also became firm friends. It is hard to put into words exactly what he meant to me as it is hard to believe he is gone. I will miss him with all my heart.

A truly remarkable person in every way. In the short time I spent in his company David was warm, generous and an intellectual giant. It was a privilege to know him.

I'm so touched by everyone's kind words about my father, in both professional and personal terms. I just wanted to say a huge thank you to you all.

He was very proud of what he achieved, but much more proud of his teams' successes.

Keep up the great work!

Will x

On behalf of the whole consortium of the EC project EAGLE, we would like to express our regret and sorrow for the departure of David Arnold. We have appreciated his clever and generous judgment as reviewer of our
project, and we are going to miss his keen observations, his positive encouragment and ... his English humor.
As the Roman inscriptions say, sit tibi terra levis (may the earth be light on you).

David was one of the European Commission’s reviewers for our project meSch, and he was always incredibly sharp and helpful in his feedback to us. He will be very much missed.
My condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

How very sad.

I last saw David at an event in Brighton a month or so before his passing. We had a beer, swapped a few jokes and he told me he was enjoying his retirement in Eastbourne. How mortal I now feel.

After such a long and industrious career his passing will be felt far and wide. My thoughts are with those who were close to him.

I met David through working on a doctoral training centre with him. He was incredibly helpful, and provided me with much personal guidance, above and beyond what we were working on together, when I needed some extra advice. I had the pleasure of examining a PhD with him in 2015, and got the benefit of his experience throughout the examination process. As well as being a great scientist, he was wonderful to work with. Much love to all his family, friends, and colleagues at this sad time.

I last saw David at VAST 2012 held in Brighton but first met him when I was new to lecturing over 25 years ago at Eurographics UK at UEA I believe. David was always willing to give help, advice and feedback. I am sure he would have been a pleasure to work with as a colleague. He will be greatly missed by both his family and the computer graphics and heritage academic community.

Nick Higgett
Programme Leader MA Digital design
De Montfort University

I first met David about 20 years ago in an EC meeting in Brussels for some cultural heritage media network. He impressed me immediately by his intelligence, enthusiasm and focus on practical activity. Subsequently his European networks EPOCH and 3D-COFORM, and the series of VAST conferences, were spectacularly successful and testaments to his ability to motivate people to do great research. And he was such a decent person, always approachable and willing to help, always ready with technical insights and contacts worldwide. His passing is a great loss to the European CH community and he will be sorely missed.

On behalf of the Social Sciences and Humanities Expert Group advising the European Commission on the role of Social Sciences and Humanities in the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme, of which David was Vice-Chair and a leading member, we are deeply sorry to hear the news of his untimely passing. This is a real blow to the whole community across Europe and David will be sorely missed. For most of us it was only in early 2016 that we had the privilege to work with David first hand, although most of us had been aware of his significant presence for some time. He was truly an inspiration and a real pleasure to work with. As an indication of his dedication, we were communicating with David up until early October concerning his input from our group into the integration of the gender dimension in the next work programme of Horizon 2020. Please convey our most heartfelt condolences to his family. Kerstin Sahlin (Secretary General of Humanities and Social Sciences, Swedish Research Council) and Jeremy Millard (Danish Technological Institute)

David will be sorely missed by the research community and his friends. It was a privilege to have known him and worked with him. He was a very influential figure in graphics and cultural heritage and leaves behind a rich legacy of research goals, ideas and collaborations he initiated. As I said at his funeral, "He relished a challenge!"

David Duce

David Arnold was a very special colleague and researcher, and his untimely departure is so very sad. First in his role as Dean of Management and Information Services, and then as Director of Cultural Informatics David showed a great interest in my work, and offered guidance and support, especially on the Retracing Heinrich Barth project. Our shared passion for African history and cultural heritage, photography and interactive technologies led to a wonderful collaboration with Mia Thornton, Lyn Pemberton and Karina Rodriguez Echavarria - enabled by David. He made time for others, and I was touched when David offered to make a speech when we first launched the Barth website, and also came up to London for the exhibition. I was lucky to have had an impromptu lunch with David a few months ago in the Cockroft cafeteria - as always, he was brimming with energy and a strong sense of purpose to be directed at future projects. My condolences go to his family: his lovely wife, Angela, his two sons and their families, and to all his colleagues in the Cultural Informatics team and beyond.

I have only now discovered the news of David's death. I was his supervisor for his PhD at the Department of Architecture at Cambridge and have extremely fond memories of is time with us. I was searching for his contact details in connection with plans for a conference to be held later this year to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the research centre in the Department. David worked on a project to apply computer modelling to the investigation of the relationship between the form and density of housing developments on the basis of maintaining adequate standards of daylight in dwellings. This was a considerable advance on the manual methods of analysis previously applied in the field. One particularly important spin-off from his work was his contribution to the design of the British Library in London, which was designed by Colin Dt J Wilson, who was then Professor of Architecture at Cambridge. David's expertise demonstrated that the library would not compromise the daylighting enjoyed by an estate of existing flats next to the site and, thereby, ensured that planning permission was granted. I and others in Cambridge send our condolences, albeit belatedly, to his family and colleagues.

I only learned of David's death yesterday, so my apologies for this late addition to the In Memoriam. I met David in 1968 at Bedford School when I became a boarder in the same boarding house. He had a huge influence on my life; he taught me to play Fives and encouraged my interest in singing through the Chapel Choir and Madrigal Society, interests which have remained with me ever since. He was always the kindest, most considerate and thoughtful person you could have dealings with. Although our paths only crossed for a year I have only good memories of him and how he helped shape my life. I met him again last year at Bedford, when he was playing Fives. Although he had trouble bending to pick up the ball, he still played a remarkable game against people almost 50 years his junior. His passing is a great loss to the Fives world. Fives was one of his great passions and he will be sorely by the whole of the Fives Community, where his name is legendary. I send my belated but heartfelt condolences to all his family.

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