It is with great sadness that the Academy informs you of the death of Emeritus Professor John Burrows FAHA, leading English literature scholar internationally recognised as one of the founders of computational stylistics. John was elected to the Academy in 1989 as a member of the English Section. 

John Burrows was born in Armidale New South Wales in 1928. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts (1949) and Diploma of Education (1950) at the University of Sydney prior to commencing work as a secondary school teacher in New South Wales and eventually Day Housemaster at The Scots College, Sydney. During this time, he continued with his tertiary education, and was awarded a Master of Arts (Honours) in 1965. In 1967 he received his PhD (London) and a Master of Arts from Cambridge University in 1980. John was a Commonwealth Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge in 1979-80 and throughout his career he was invited to deliver papers at conferences across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. 

John enjoyed a long-standing relationship with the University of Newcastle from 1976 until his retirement in 1989. His appointments included Professor of English, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Head of the Department of English and a member of the University’s Council and Senate. In 1989, he was appointed the Founding Director of the Centre for Literary and Linguistic Computing, an initiative established by the University of Newcastle to support John’s ground-breaking research beyond his retirement. In 2011, the Centre convened a Symposium – Language Individuation – in his honour.

John’s earlier publications were mainly in the field of Australian literature, especially Patrick White and John Shaw Neilson. His later work has come to focus on Jane Austen; his critical study of Emma was followed by a number of papers on the computer analysis of her prose style. In seeking computer assistance for his research in 1979, his seminal work – Computation into Criticism: A Study of Jane Austen’s Novels and an Experiment in Method (Oxford, 1987) – presented analyses of the speeches of her 47 major characters to reveal how words can reveal powerful patterns in a writer’s language and the dialogue given to characters. John extended his methodology and technology to works such as Henry James’s The Awkward Age, E.M. Forster’s Howards End and Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, together with attempts to imitate Austen’s regency English and Georgette Heyer’s Frederica. He also attempted to use his methodology to determine the authorship of anonymous or dubiously attributed work.

John will be remembered for his distinguished career in English literature and literary computing. He was largely responsible for the resurgence of interest in computational approaches to literary style and became recognised as the founder of computational stylistics through a significant portfolio of books, chapters and articles. 

In 2001, John received the Busa Award from the Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing and the Association for Computers and the Humanities, a lifetime achievement award for his work in computational stylistics. In 2010, he was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List as Member of the Order of Australia.

We extend our deepest sympathies to the Burrows family. 

John's funeral will be held at 2:30pm on Friday 20 December at the Norhtern Suburbs Memorial in Sydney. In John's memory, the family have requested donations to be made to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation

Vale prepared by Dr Julia Evans
Director, Communications & Engagement