Gerard Duveen (4 March 1951 – 8 November 2008)

On a warm July afternoon, a large gathering filled a garden at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge. However, this was not one of the usual college social occasions but the ‘living funeral’ of the College Vice-Master. Following the diagnosis of an untreatable cancer, Gerard Duveen held a party. An open invitation was circulated. Friends, family and academic colleagues came from far and wide to celebrate Gerard and to make their farewells. It is an old cliché that the principal actor is typically absent at a funeral or memorial, but not so for Gerard, a psychologist of everyday life, who created this unusual social occasion for us to say our farewells to him.

Gerard was a leading figure in social psychology who made major contributions to our understanding of cultural knowledge – social representations - and the role of such knowledge in the development of personal identity. He was a notable and influential teacher, especially of graduate students and, indeed, many of his past students came to that farewell gathering to express their gratitude to Gerard for his teaching and wise counsel.

Following a joint Philosophy and Psychology degree at Surrey (1974), Gerard did an M.Sc. in Rudolf Schaffer’s Department of Psychology at Strathclyde, before doing his Ph.D. at Sussex. His thesis title, “From social cognition to cognition of social life: An essay in decentration” focused on the topic that remained central throughout his career. After some short term teaching and research posts, Gerard returned to Sussex as a Research Fellow associated with Barbara Lloyd, and their very successful and productive research collaboration produced a string of papers as well as two influential books, Gender Identities and Education (1992) and the edited volume, Social Representation and Development of Knowledge (1998).

In 1989 Gerard was appointed to a lectureship in the Department of Education in Cambridge and four years later the post was transferred to the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, where he remained until his death. He was a Director of Studies and later Vice-Master of Corpus Christi College.

In Cambridge, Gerard continued to work on the development of social representation, particularly focusing on the relationship between representation and identities. In many ways, Gerard’s thinking and teaching were much more part of the continental tradition than of mainstream Anglo-American psychology. His twin intellectual father figures were Jean Piaget and Serge Moscovici. Indeed, his chapter for the Mélange en l’honneur de Serge Moscovici was titled “Genesis and Structure: Piaget and Moscovici’’. Gerard played an important role in bringing work from the French school to the attention of English speaking audiences and was responsible for a number of translations, especially of Moscovici’s work. In addition to membership of the editorial boards of a clutch of English language journals, he served both Psychologie et Societé and Rassenga di Pisicologia. A fluent linguist who published in French, Spanish and Portuguese – as well as English--he was as much at home in the academic corridors of Paris as of Cambridge.

A quiet and totally unassuming person, Gerard did not draw attention to himself or his own work. Academic promotion came late and he was appointed to a University Readership in 2004. His great strength, and indeed influence, was in the more personal context of post graduate teaching and research supervision.

Gerard did his share of academic Committee and administrative work, including a stint as Head of the Department of Social and Developmental Psychology, but his real passion was graduate teaching. He set up and initially did much of the teaching for the M.Phil in Social and Developmental Psychology, and always had a very active group of Ph.D. students. Some colleagues viewed Gerard as an academic administrator of the old school, characterised by quiet diplomacy rather than bureaucratic efficiency! He did come to use email but only when it suited him and was always very selective in responding to incoming messages. Many were ignored! Gerard’s office and college rooms were notorious for piles of paper that covered all horizontal surfaces.

Gerard could seem rather distant and reserved on occasion, but his friends and the students knew a very different person – warm and generous, not least with his broad knowledge of psychology. He could also be startling open and direct about the most difficult of topics, as he was in talking of his own illness and its inevitable consequence. He will long be remembered and missed.

Professor Martin Richards
Professor Michael Lamb