I F Clarke

Professor of English

Born: 10 July, 1916 at Wallasey, Merseyside.

Died: 5 November, 2009, in Milton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire, aged 93.

I F CLARKE ( known as "Knobbie" to all and sundry) was appointed to the University of Strathclyde in 1958 to initiate courses in general studies. In 1964 English studies emerged as a stand-alone department and Knobbie became foundation professor of English in 1969. From that time onwards he presided over a great expansion in the department, recruiting a talented, if not always harmonious, group of teachers.

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By the time he retired in 1981, the department's contribution to the teaching of English literary studies was widely recognised and applauded.

It was, however, in his chosen field of research that he made a universal impact: his first major publication, a comprehensive bibliography of science fiction – he preferred "future fiction" – sources paved the way for the establishment of this genre as a field of academic scholarship. His major study Voices Prophesying War (1966) was widely admired and was followed by the equally influential The Pattern of Expectation in 1979.

While continuing to edit and introduce popular future fiction texts (eg, The Battle of Dorking), he was working on two other collections, The Great War with Germany, 1890-1914 and The Tale of the Next great War: Fictions of Future Warfare and of Battles Still to Come, eventually published in 1995.

Some of the material from these publications was subsumed in his monumental eight-volume British Future Fiction 1700-1914, published in 2001 – when Knobbie was 85. This massive collection, which convincingly demonstrates "how time replaced space and how, in consequence, the geographies of utopian fiction evolved into the historiographies of a new literature", is an invaluable tool for researchers in the field.

In 2002 he published an important new critical edition of Cousin de Grainville's The Last Man (translated by himself and his wife, Margaret) and in 2004 he edited and introduced Emile Souvestre's The World as it Shall Be (translated into English for the first time by Margaret).

Even before he had completed this astonishing amount of work, he had deservedly won the Pilgrim Award of the Science Fiction Research Association (in 1974) and in 1998 the pioneer award from the same body "for excellence in scholarship".

He had, however, also received an award of another kind. After serving for most of the Second World War with military intelligence in some exceptionally hazardous exploits, he found a creative and highly unorthodox solution to a resettlement problem among returning servicemen in Bozen in the South Tyrol (which helped a substantial number of people to avoid becoming "stateless citizens"). It won him many admirers there, and in due course he was awarded the Tiroler Adler-Orden by a grateful citizenry.

Over the years he and Margaret have formed warm friendships across the globe and there will be many in these communities who will now be mourning his passing.

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A larger-than-life figure, Knobbie Clarke will leave a larger than usual hole in the universe he has left behind. He is survived by Margaret, sons Julian and Christopher and daughter Catherine, and by four grandchildren.