Eric Springthorpe 1930-2017

Eric Springthorpe’s (OK 1949 & ex-staff) association with King’s was almost lifelong. He entered the school on a Surrey Scholarship at 11+ and represented the school on the cricket field in the 1st XI and left with a place at Oxford to read Botany. Sadly, family finances were such that he had to turn this down in favour of a place at King’s College London, where he gained a 1st in 1952. This was followed by National Service where he served as an officer in the Royal Artillery and was posted to Germany, where he often managed to find time to visit the opera in Hamburg. He brought his academic and intellectual prowess to bear on the problems of accurate range finding and devised new procedures that were subsequently adopted by the army.

Released from National Service, his first teaching post was at Emanuel College in Wandsworth, moving after three years to KCS as a junior member of the biology department under, then Head of Biology, William Barker, remaining at the school for the rest of his career. Barker and Springthorpe collaborated on a new textbook to support their teaching called A Concise Biology (1963). Having succeeded Barker as Head of Department, Eric authored two further books to support the changing style of teaching and curriculum in the late 1960s-70s, including: A First Biology (1967) and Introduction to Functional Systems in Animals (1973). Eric was respected by boys and colleagues alike; fair and firm, his teaching was epitomized by his quiet authority. He was a thoroughly professional teacher who took great pains in his lesson preparation and marking. He was also renowned for the clarity and beauty of his diagrams and for explaining difficult concepts and bringing them to life. The strong foundations he laid enabled a constant stream of boys to go on to read science and medicine at leading universities. Out of the classroom, Eric was a popular 6th form tutor and also took part in the training teams in rugby and cricket, but his passion was tennis, which both his sons picked up. He found himself drawn into the organisation of the Independent Schools LTA with which he was associated for many years into his retirement. His legacy is the Springthorpe Cup for which all the ISLTA 1st round losers compete.

Following retirement, he and Katie moved into a wonderful converted eighteenth-century barn in Norfolk, where they created a garden and immersed themselves in village life and followed their passion for travel, with trips to Europe, Egypt, Turkey and the USA. Eric became both reader and treasurer at St Mary’s, Starston, and a compiler of crosswords puzzles for the parish magazine; he joined the local choral society and Probus; and both he and Katie volunteered to mentor local sixth formers to help them apply for university and work. Sadly, following the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, Eric’s health deteriorated very quickly, and he spent three years in a hospital/care home before succumbing to pneumonia, pre-deceased two and a half years by Katie. A quite family cremation took place on 12 April 2017.