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Taylor, Mike (1946–2021)

Mike Taylor joined The Australian National University in 1979 and had an important impact on the Department of Human Geography in the Research School of Pacific Studies (RSPS). His interests broadly spanned the field of economic geography. He was widely liked and respected.

Born in the UK, Mike earned a PhD at the University College London in 1971. He followed up by accepting an appointment at the University of Auckland.

Mike was a leading international figure in human geography thanks to an expansive body of research undertaken over 50 years. With more than 15 books and over 100 papers, he made significant contributions to research on the geography of firms, multinational corporations and local economic development. He held several key international roles, including with the International Geographical Union where he led initiatives in the field of economic geography.

Mike and family moved to Canberra and, from 1979 to 1986, Mike worked in the Department of Human Geography in the Research School of Pacific Studies at The Australian National University in Canberra. He commenced as a Research Fellow and was later a Senior Research Fellow.

Mike Taylor’s list of papers and books, generally jointly with ANU colleagues, illustrate his productivity and insight into the changing economy during his time in Canberra. His books included The Geography Multinationals: Studies in the Spatial Development and Economic Consequences of Multinational Corporations (with N.J. Thrift, Croom Helm, 1982); Industrial Organisation and Location (with P.J. McDermott, Cambridge University Press, 1982); Papers of the 7th Australian/New Zealand Regional Science Association, Canberra (with C. Adrian, C.C. Kissling and N.J. Thrift, 1983); Regional Impacts of Resource Developments (with C. Adrian, C.C. Kissling and N.J. Thrift, Croom Helm, 1984); The Geography of Australian Corporate Power (with N.J Thrift, Croom Helm, 1984); and Multinationals and the Restructuring of the World Economy (with N.J. Thrift, Croom Helm, 1986).

Following on from his work at the ANU, Mike took a role as Director of Information Services in the Office of Local Government in Canberra. This led him into a role as Assistant Secretary (SES Level 2) in the Bureau of Transport and Communications Economics, located in the Department of Transport. His responsibilities oversaw land transport research. He followed up this theme in 1987–89 when he took on the role of Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Transport and Communications Economics, in the Department of Transport. Here he took charge of land transport research.

While at the ANU Mike overlapped with Chris Kissling, a geographer in the School of Human Geography. Mike contributed to Chris’s attempts to develop, with the help of cartographers in the Department of Human Geography, an atlas of the Asia-Pacific region using then innovative digital technology. While the atlas never appeared, it sent a signal to geographers that the area of mapping was on the verge of a significant change. This connection was sustained over many years when Kissling moved back to Christchurch. They worked together as a team with their joint work on transport that contributed to a book Fiji Future Imperfect?. Mike’s knowledge and experience with matters of transport helped with developments in South Pacific Islands.

After leaving Canberra, Mike and family moved to Western Australia where he joined the Department of Geography at the University of Western Australia. In 1989 he was appointed Chair and Head of the Department of Geography. He later returned to the UK where he was Head of the Department of Geography at Portsmouth followed by a period at the University of Birmingham.

Mike was a gifted and dedicated teacher. He proudly noted that, when Head of Department and Professor at UWA, he continued to teach large first-year courses as well as carry a significant administrative load. Former students to this day recall his wit, good humour and generosity as a teacher. As a colleague, Mike offered a boundless energy and enthusiasm that few could match. His opinions on politics and universities were always well observed and often hilarious and unrepeatable.

Mike had a great love of Australia, and after leaving the University of Western Australia he made many return visits to spend time with family and collaborate with colleagues. He longed to return to Australia on a more permanent basis, and in 2015 he and his wife Rosemary retired to the Southwestern region of WA. On his return, he maintained a link with the University of Western Australia as an Adjunct Professor and remained active in research on local economic development.

Mike was very proud of his wife, Rosemary, who supported him and his children. He will be missed by scholars interested in modern geographical studies.

* This obituary was put together from material supplied by colleagues from Human Geography, ANU, and the Department of Geography and Planning, UWA.

Citation details

'Taylor, Mike (1946–2021)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/taylor-mike-32986/text41105, accessed 30 January 2023.

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