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Book of Condolence: Professor Sir Christopher Dobson

This page was created to display online messages of condolence following the death of Professor Sir Christopher Dobson, Master of St John’s College, who died age 69 on Sunday, September 8 2019.

Please note we are no longer accepting submissions to the online condolence book.

Was a large part of what made John's such an incredible place to be, representing and encouraging a work hard, play hard attitude.

One of the proudest moments of my life will remain at Matriculation Dinner in 2011 when Chris, The Master, said "Some of you may feel like you are here by mistake, but at St John's we don't make mistakes."

A massive loss to those who knew you and the Johnian community, glad to have been amongst them.
Patrick Calvert
I am deeply saddened at the loss of Sir Christopher Dobson. Chris was an exceptional scientist who gave generously to the College as Master, and in all my interactions with him I felt that he cared deeply about his community. He was always supportive towards me as a Fellow.

I have many fond recollections of my interactions with Chris, but one that stands out was when I ran into him at our GP, where we had arrived with our newborn child. He was delighted to see the baby, and he offered the thought to my wife and me that through all of one's achievements and milestones there is none that matches the life-changing significance of bringing a child into this world.

With this memory, my thoughts and condolences go out to Chris's family.


Professor Zoubin Ghahramani (Fellow)
My most heartfelt condolences. I have very fond memories of Chris. His energetic presence in college was invariably warm and supportive. He took a personal interest in all members of the college community; I greatly appreciate the time and care he devoted to offering me useful advice from his extensive experience. He will have many enduring legacies, not least of which is his success in promoting diversity among the Fellowship. He had a clear and compelling vision for the college and a unique ability to enable individuals to thrive.

We will all miss him.
Helena Knowles
As a visitor to St John's on various occasions, I found him a warm and welcoming host, totally unpompous, who must be so hugely missed by everyone at SJC . In short, a lovely man and clearly a massive loss to science and to his college. He was proud of the restoration of the Master's Lodge, which he launched, making it an asset for the whole college. Our thoughts are with his family.
Ken Powell
Sir Christopher was an inspirational leader of the college. As others have attested to his intellectual brilliance and far-reaching generosity, I thought I might share a brief example of his excellent sense of humour.
The Master hosts the Larmor Award ceremony in the Master's Lodge every graduation morning. In 2013, Sir Christopher expressed a mixture of concern and bemusement when, with fifteen minutes until the graduate photograph, he pointed out that I had neither my hood nor graduation tie. Improvising, the Master lent me his own tie, told me to hotfoot it to the nearest tailors for the hood and promised to stall the photographer if I didn't make it back in time.
He didn't have to, mercifully; thanks to his intervention I snuck into the picture. That afternoon, in Senate House, Sir Christopher conferred my degree with the traditional Latin formula. Then he left a beat, glanced at my collar and, with the flicker of a smile, murmured "Nice tie."
Though an academic giant, he was never inaccessible or intimidating, and spared this disorganised student's blushes with grace, style and perfect comic timing. I send my condolences to Dr Mary Dobson and Sir Christopher's family for their sad loss.


Alex MacKeith
In my interactions with Sir Christopher he was approachable, more Chris than Sir, passionate about the College and the students therein and dedicated to thinking about others. His support for the legacy of Manmohan Singh, a distinguished and humble Johnian, was a clear example of such.

I was delighted that my wife and children also saw his friendly nature at a Master’s tea party.
Dr Kanwardeep Ahluwalia (1988)
When I came to Cambridge as a graduate student in 2009 Chris made me feel very welcome. The concerts he hosted in the Lodge were some of the highlights of my PhD years, and I am deeply saddened to hear of his early passing. He was a visionary Master, and John's is a richer community for his many contributions. He shall be very much missed.
Dr Sarah Kennedy (2009)
I was deeply saddened to hear of Chris's passing. He and Mary have done so much to foster the spirit of St John's, making it a highly productive, positive, attractive and supportive community of study.
I hope this great legacy will be taken up and strengthened further by his successor.
Dr Derek Roberts (1980)
Such a devastating loss of a wonderful, strong, inspiring man! Chris I thank you for your support, guidance and friendship over the years. I wish my deepest condolences, love and support to Mary and the rest of the family.
Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri
I am deeply saddened and shocked to learn of the untimely passing of Chris. In 1988 I was fortunate to become one of Chris's earliest DPhil student from China. The next year he was so kind to invite me and Jie (my future wife) to spend Christmas with his family. We were warmly welcomed by Mary, and quickly became friends with Richard and William. It was one of the most memorable Christmas we've ever had. As young foreign students far away from family we were deeply touched by Chris's kindness and sensitivity. Of course it was also a great privilege to be mentored by a scientific giant with awesome intellectual power and a witty sense of humor!

My heartfelt condolences to Mary, Richard and William!
Xiang Li (LMH 1988)