01 July 2009

Peter H Mann 1926 – 2008

Peter Mann died on 2 August 2008. He was, successively, Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Reader in Sociology. He is especially remembered in the Department of Sociological Studies as the initiator, with Keith Kelsall, of the Honours Degree in Sociology; he led the acceptance of sociology as an academic discipline within the Faculty of Social Sciences.

Peter was especially committed to teaching and demonstrating reliable and rigorous methods of social investigation; and his advice on research design and implementation was sought in several settings, both in and outside the University.

Following service as a radio officer in the Merchant Navy from 1943 to 1947 (in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Indian Ocean), he graduated at Leeds University, gained a Master’s Degree at Liverpool, and a PhD at Nottingham where he worked as University Research Fellow in Sociology. He was one of the earliest specialists in Urban Sociology, and, on arrival in Sheffield, he responded to a request from the Vicar of St Mary’s Bramall Lane to set up an enquiry into the community needs and resources in that area. The first restructuring of St Mary’s church building to provide a community centre and a range of social services arose from Peter’s work.

From 1975 to 1980, he collaborated with his friend Professor Wilf Saunders as joint Head of the Centre for Research on User Studies; and, following retirement, he moved to Loughborough University as Director of the Library and Information Statistics Unit from 1983 to 1991. In both of these appointments, his research was wide-ranging; theatre audiences, the readership of romantic fiction, reading habits among the general pubic, and the marketing of publications. He was at various times consulted by publishers, The National Trust, the Arts Council, and the Library Association of Australia. He presented many papers, particularly on readership research, to several organisations and in several countries.

Peter will be remembered also in his role as University Marshall when the Arts Tower was formally opened by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

In retirement he helped several theatre groups behind the scenes, making scenery and stage properties of various kinds; and with his wife Margaret was an enthusiastic supporter of several dramatics societies. He was a keen supporter of the Leicester Tigers rugby team; and he loved the humour and brass bands of his native Yorkshire.

Former students and his many friends in Sheffield and Leicestershire will remember with pleasure and gratitude Peter’s commitment to sound research and his and Margaret’s hospitality. They hosted delightful parties and knew how to generate great fun.

Written by Emeritus Professor Eric E Sainsbury, OBE.