Philip Stewart was a husband, father and exceptional teacher who lived on Boars Hill and inspired generations of Oxford students, at the intersection of ecology and human sciences. He has died aged 83.

Philip was a true polymath and linguist, interested in an astonishing range of subjects, with sufficient expertise to write and publish on many of them. His publications ranged from Arabic translations, forestry, economics and ecology to the history of chemistry, and poetry.

He was a passionate lover of trees and landscapes, and wrote practical guides to the trees and walks of Boars Hill for its residents.

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Philip was born in 1939 in the then St Pancras borough of London. He was privately educated at Bryanston School, Dorset, before studying Arabic at St Antony’s, Oxford, where he graduated with a first class honours degree.

In 1962, while in Cairo studying for a PhD, he translated Naguib Mahfouz’s novel Children of Gebelawi, which was serialised in a local newspaper. The book was quickly suppressed in Egypt on religious grounds and might have been lost but for Philip’s efforts to preserve the original text which his wife typed up while expecting their third child. Philip cut all ties to the Arab world when his link to the forbidden book put him in fear for his life.

Much later, Mahfouz would become the first Egyptian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, and Philip’s translation was cited in the Nobel press release in 1988.

After his PhD, Philip changed course completely, taking a further honours degree in forestry, for which he was awarded another First, and working for the UN in Geneva for a year. A career in the UN was not for him, however, as his interests lay in forest conservation. He left Geneva to take up a post in the Algerian Ministry of Water and Forests, long after the French had left the country. There he came under the tutelage of Mr Alexis Monjauze, a senior French forestry official working for the Algerian government, and founder of the National Parc des Cévennes, France.

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While living in Algiers, he met Lucie, Mr Monjauze’s youngest daughter and a biology teacher. They soon fell in love and shared many adventures travelling in a battered 2CV through the remote Algerian mountains and the Sahara desert.

Philip married Lucie in 1969 in France at her family estate, and after a brief stint in England, where he taught at Bryanston School for a year, they returned to Algeria.

There they lived with their two young children in the remote oasis of Bou Saada, and Philip took up a post with War on Want. However, Algeria was becoming increasingly dangerous for a young expatriate family and they returned to the UK in 1975. Philip took up a lectureship in plant sciences at Oxford University, in what was then the Department of Forestry and Agriculture.

Philip became a fellow of St Cross College, teaching economics to students of Agriculture and Forestry, and he remained at the university until retirement in 2007.

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He continued teaching ecology long after retirement and corresponded with Scientific journals and newspapers. His letters appeared regularly in The Oxford Times and he was writing up until the very end of his life, his final article written just days before he passed away on November 23. The funeral was held on December 3. Philip is survived by his beloved wife Lucie, their five children and 11 grandchildren.