Obituary: Magdalena Midgley, 61

Magdalena Midgley inspired students with her knowledge. Picture: comp
Magdalena Midgley inspired students with her knowledge. Picture: comp
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MAGDALENA Midgley, professor of archaeology at Edinburgh University, has died, aged 61.

Born on November 4, 1952 in Bydgoszcz, Poland, Magdalena Appelt was the daughter of an industrial designer, Bruno Appelt, and his wife, Bronislawa.

She was educated locally until leaving high school in 1971 and the following year she came to Edinburgh, where her cousin, Bernard, and his wife, Kathleen, already lived.

Magdalena embarked on an English course at Stevenson College while working as an au pair. That October she met modern languages teacher Stephen Midgley, at a birthday party at his flat, and fell in love. They married in Edinburgh the following May.

Encouraged by her husband and family she continued her studies, gaining enough Highers to win a place at Edinburgh University in 1974. Her chosen field was archaeology, a subject that, along with history, had interested her since childhood. Inspired by one of her tutors, Professor Stuart Piggott, one of the most distinguished archaeologists of his generation and an expert on the Neolithic period, she was soon specialising in prehistoric archaeology.

After graduating with an MA Hons in 1978, she was awarded a PhD for her research on north European earthen long barrows, or Neolithic tombs, in 1985. Over the next few years she took part in various archaeological excavation projects and was appointed a lecturer in prehistoric archaeology at Edinburgh University in 1989.

She mainly taught and researched the early farming cultures of Europe, publishing numerous papers.

As an expert in the European Neolithic she not only enthused and inspired her students with her knowledge of, and unending curiosity for, megalithic monuments, but she was a skilful administrator and a naturally compassionate pastoral carer over almost 25 years.

Magda, as she was known at the university, was also quality assurance adviser to the old faculty group of arts, divinity and music for several years, and was an integral member of the school in its new home in the Old Medical Building.

She was promoted to a personal chair of the European Neolithic in the school of history, classics and archaeology in August 2013 but retired on health grounds in June this year after being diagnosed with cancer 18 months ago.

Though she never returned to live in Poland, she visited many times and kept in touch with family and events in her birthplace. She and her husband shared many passions, among them cats, classical music and fast cars. She loved literature, walking in the mountains and travelling, particularly to their holiday home in the Pyrenees.

Professor Midgley is survived by husband Stephen and sister Krystyna.