Professor M.L. Samuels (1920-2010)

Professor Michael Samuels

Michael Samuels was one of the leading scholars in historical English Language and Linguistics of his time. Following his degree at Balliol College, Oxford, and a period as lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, he took up the Glasgow chair in 1959 and remained there until his retirement in 1989. He is especially remembered for two agenda-setting projects which revolutionised historical English Language studies: A Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English, published in 1986 in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Edinburgh, and the Historical Thesaurus of English, founded by Samuels at Glasgow in 1965 and published as the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary (HTOED) in 2009, and as a component of the online Oxford English Dictionary in 2010. In addition to a distinguished research career, he was instrumental in shaping a Glasgow department which combined traditional philology with new approaches from the rapidly expanding discipline of theoretical linguistics. His achievements were honoured by a Fellowship from the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1989) and an Honorary DLitt from the University of Glasgow (2006). Although by then in his ninetieth year, Samuels was able to attend the launch of HTOED, which reunited many people who had worked on the project. The notes for his talk, which received a standing ovation, can be accessed here.

His obituary in the Guardian is available here and in the Glasgow Herald here.

In memory of Professor Samuels, the University of Glasgow has set up the Michael Samuels Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Undergraduate Research into Historical English Language, which is paid from a fund established by friends, family, colleagues, and other supporters of the Historical Thesaurus and Michael's work. Contributions to this fund are very welcome, and can be made here.