Professor Sir Donald Neil MacCormick
It is with enormous sadness and regret that we announce the death of our friend and colleague Professor Sir Neil MacCormick.
Neil died from cancer on 5th April 2009. His death will bring great sadness to many in the world of education, law and politics and to his many students, colleagues, admirers and friends. He possessed a staggering intellect, great wit and a wonderful, dry sense of humour, but most of all a warmth and spirit that touched all who knew him.
Neil studied Philosophy at Glasgow and Law at Oxford, anticipating an intellectual approach always as grounded in practical questions as it was deeply reflective and provocatively original. He published seminal works on the quality of legal reasoning, on law's institutional character, on the links between law, politics and morality, and - closest of all to his political heart - on the relations between overlapping legal and political orders in an increasingly interconnected world. His productivity and creativity never waned from his first monograph - the justly celebrated Legal Reasoning and Legal Theory - published in 1978, to his monumental Law, State, and Practical Reason, the fourth and final volume of which was published in December of last year.
Perhaps no other contemporary scholar has influenced so many areas of legal thinking so deeply over such a long period. That influence flowed through his writings, and also through his brilliant teaching and public lecturing, his unsparingly generous advice to the countless scholars and students who sought him out, and his selfless dedication to the promotion of legal theory as a subject whose global reach should match its universal significance.
During 36 years as Regius Professor of Public Law and the Law of Nature and Nations at Edinburgh he was twice Dean of the Law Faculty, as well as serving as Provost of the Faculty Group of Law and Social Science 1994-7, and as Vice Principal for international affairs, 1997-99. In addition to holding these high offices, Neil was often called upon to bring his wisdom and humanity to bear on difficult issues, both formally and informally, and always did so cheerfully and unstintingly, and to the University's great benefit.
His many awards provide some measure of the esteem in which he is held. He was a longstanding Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and of the British Academy. He was constantly in demand as a Visiting Professor and was awarded seven honorary Doctorates and Foreign Membership of the Finnish Academy of Sciences. He was appointed Honorary Queens Counsel (England and Wales) in 1999, and in 2001 he received his knighthood for services to scholarship in law.
A Scottish Nationalist born and bred, Neil stood for the UK Parliament in five elections between 1979 and 1997, eventually becoming a member of the European Parliament between 1999 and 2004. There he served with distinction, as indicated by his being voted Scottish Euro MP of the Year for three consecutive years. More recently, he continued a lifetime of public service as special adviser to the First Minister on European and External Affairs.
Neil is survived by his wife Flora, three daughters from his previous marriage and three step children. He leaves behind a wonderful legacy and we will always treasure his memory.