James Cornford 1935 - 2011
10 October 2011
It is with great sadness that we mark the death of James Cornford, Director of the Nuffield Foundation from 1981 to 1989.
During his eight years as Director, James laid the groundwork for the modern Nuffield Foundation. The physical manifestation was a move from grand premises on the edge of Regent’s Park to an altogether more appropriate and accessible home in the heart of Bloomsbury. More significant was the change of style and focus that went with it. Drawing on his experience as founder of the Outer Circle Policy Unit, one of the first policy think tanks, James had a clear-eyed and realistic appraisal of what a Foundation with relatively modest means could achieve.
Despite (or perhaps because of) his earlier experience as an academic he was at least as interested in practical experiment and innovation as he was in research, and he was interested in research not for its own sake but because of the contribution it could make to social and policy reform. Those principles still guide what the Foundation does today.
As a colleague he was a joy to work with. Deeply sceptical of management dogma his style was collegial and hands off. He led by example and persuasion, not fiat. One remembers above all his sharpness and clarity of thought, his irreverent sense of humour and his innate decency and kindliness.