In Memory of Professor John Merrills

Photo of Professor John MerrillsIt is with great sadness that the University of Sheffield School of Law announces the death of Professor John Merrills, who passed away on Monday 24 September 2018. John started his academic career at the University of Sheffield School of Law in 1964 as an Assistant Lecturer and he was made Professor of Public International Law in 1985. John continued in this role until his retirement in 2007 and he remained an Emeritus Professor until his death. During his academic career at the University of Sheffield, John twice served as Dean of the Faculty of Law. John also served for eight years as an Alternate Member of the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. In 2007 he was elected an Associate Member of the Institut de Droit International.

John possessed a prodigious knowledge of public international law. He was a popular and inspiring teacher and a collegiate and well-liked member of the academic community. In his research capacity, John authored numerous books and articles on the topics of international dispute settlement (in both its political and legal sense) and the protection of human rights. His textbook entitled International Dispute Settlement is published by Cambridge University Press and is now in its fifth edition. It remains the leading text in the area and is an important source of reference for policy-makers, academics and students alike.

John remained an active member of the international legal community even after his retirement and he maintained especially close links to the University of Sheffield School of Law. John will be dearly missed by all his colleagues and friends.

Professors Duncan French and Nigel White were colleagues of John at the University of Sheffield School of Law when he retired.

Duncan French, Professor of Law and Head of the School of Law at the University of Lincoln, paid the following tribute to John:

‘Professor John Merrills will always be associated with public international law at the University of Sheffield. I had the great pleasure of working with him from my arrival in September 2002 until his retirement in 2007. To co-edit a book in his honour (International Law and Dispute Settlement: New Problems and Techniques (Hart, 2010)) was both a hugely enjoyable task and gave me a deep sense of pride. John had a preeminent place in the academy of international law scholars, particularly with his work on international dispute settlement (especially with his authoritative book on the subject); though his interests were much more wide-ranging, including on human rights, environmental law and indeed his interest was piqued by almost any legal question, international or domestic. A true polymath in so many ways.

But most of all I remember the hundreds of students who were taught international law by John, even during my relatively short time as a colleague. The classes we co-taught were some of my favourite memories from my time at Sheffield.

He gave of his time unstintingly; he taught me that to be research-active, a good teacher and a student-facing academic were not mutually exclusive features of being a professor; they were its component elements. That was his greatest lesson to me; more than the explanation of the nuances of any particular rule of international law, which he had to do often. So much more than a learned - and after his retirement, a well-deserved emeritus - professor; a lovely, and humble, colleague.’

Nigel White, Professor of Public International Law at the University of Nottingham, reflected:

‘It was a great pleasure to have worked with John at Sheffield for a few years. His enthusiasm for both international law and for teaching was pretty inspiring. He was a great colleague and constant source of advice and knowledge. His research was of the highest quality. In my own work, I particularly value two of his books - The Anatomy of International Law and International Dispute Settlement. The latter is the seminal text in the area, while the former is a little gem.’