Lasting impressions

Remembering some other remarkable lives of women who have recently died. All admirable achievers in their fields; their work will live on: as contributors, as role-models, as individuals .

Zaha Hadid, Architect (1950-2016)

Born in Baghdad in 1950 and based in London, Hadid was perhaps the most successful female architect therehas ever been. She was one of a handful of global superstar designers who have changed the way people think about the world through buildings.

Yet this wasn’t always the case – Hadid once had a reputation as unbuildable, a ‘paper architect’ whose projects began as vivid paintings of gravity-defying shapes exploding into the void. How did this extraordinary and pioneering woman – by turns charming, stubborn, visionary yet exacting – come to build the impossible?

Died of a sudden heart attack, 31st March 2016.

Watch: BBC Imagine – Alan Yentob’s profile of the late Zaha Hadid, first shown in 2013, three years before her recent death.  

Listen: BBC Desert Island Discs –

Read – Lynn Barber interview

Works – The Complete Zaha Hadid by Aaron Betsky, The Design Museum, profile


Jenny Diski, Writer

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Jenny Diski described herself as “contrary-minded”, she delighted in breaking taboos and never recognised any boundaries to her imagination. She survived a bleak childhood and miserable youth to become one of the most inventive, original and disturbing writers of her generation, and a prolific author of novels, short stories, reviews, essays, travelogues and memoirs.  After her lung cancer diagnosis she started a blog ‘this and that” about her experience and treatment and her tweets soon found a devoted following. She died on 28 April 2016.

Listen: BBC One to one – Jenny discusses facing death

Read: Obituaries; Daily TelegraphThe Guardian

Works: What I didn’t know about animals, audio version


Dr Anita Brookner, CBE & Booker prize-winning author

Anita Brookner came late to writing. She was 53, a teacher at the Courtauld Institute with a distinguished academic career, when she published her first book, in 1981, the aptly titled A Start in Life.

Three years later she was awarded the Booker Prize for her novel Hotel du Lac.   Her work examined middle class life; the cruel imbalance of need and desire that underlie relationships, the hopes and the misunderstandings, the yearning for a time of possibilities and for ‘true innocence’ – that ‘brief moment before the onset of disappointment’.  Her forensic but sparse examination of the interior life, in all its self-deceptions, hard truths and glimmers of false hopes drew her readers. She was also known for her solitary life, she lived alone and never married.  This she often wrote about too in a brilliant examination of solitude and the various strategies employed to stave off ennui, ‘the slight failure of nerve’ at the gathering darkness. She died aged 87 on March 15th 2016.

Watch: Hotel du Lac 1986

Read/Listen – Obituaries; Daily Telegraph, TRT world review , BBC Last Word

Works: British Council5 Best Brookner novels, Courtauld Institute


Professor Lisa Jardine –  “the leading British female public intellectual of our times”. 

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Lisa Jardine could properly be called a polymath, fluent in five languages and, as comfortable with the sciences as she was with the humanities, the breadth of her scholarship and the depth of her understanding of so many subjects was awe-inspiring. But more important to her than her impressive intellectual achievements – her research, her essays, her fascinating books and her stimulating broadcasts – was the opportunity to show the generations of women who came after her that it was both possible to succeed at work and at many other things as well. She died from cancer on 25th October 2015.

Read: Obituaries – The Guardian, Apollo Magazine

Listen: BBC Desert Island Discs,  BBC Last Word, BBC Night Waves (lecture on IVF)

Works: Royal Society, Publications, CELL, HFEA, Inaugural Lecture – UCL Arts & Humanities, Social & Historical Sciences