Many of you probably know that my second PhD supervisor, Bill MacLehose, died in May 2020. This came as an enormous shock. In my book acknowledgements, I mention that he died and thank him for his help with my project. There was so much more to say, but I just didn’t feel there was space to do it justice there, or that anything I could manage to fit in would just feel inadequate, so I’ve written a longer tribute here.
I first met Bill during my MA when he agreed to co-supervise my dissertation with Catherine Keen. I traipsed up the stairs to his office, where we had conversations about plague and plague tracts. Bill and Catherine also supervised my PhD – I was very lucky to be able to keep the same team for both, ensuring continuity, and also help as I navigated the murky waters between Italian Studies and Medieval History. Bill introduced me to the Wellcome Premodern History of Medicine seminars, helping to integrate me into the history of medicine community both at the talks and at the lively dinners afterwards.
Bill always pushed me to define my key terms, especially things that would only be obvious to an Italianist. His expertise in the Children’s Crusade was enormously helpful for helping me to ground my research on a another popular religious revival in previous traditions. He listened enthusiastically to tales of my exploits on my research trips to Italy, and provided thoughtful feedback on my writing.
I taught for Bill on a course on Science and Religion in the Global Environment. The students really enjoyed his lectures, hanging behind to ask questions or tell him what they were interested in. Bill gave me free rein in the seminars, leading to some amazing Galileo memes which he greatly enjoyed. I will always remember Bill when someone uses the word “impact” as a verb, which he detested in student writing as it reminded him of impacted bowels. I taught on the course again this academic year, which was very different, especially as I gave the lecture on medieval medicine, using his materials to guide me.
Bill never knew that my book got accepted for publication, and yet it would never have happened without his help and support. The last time I saw Bill was to discuss what is now the second chapter of my book. We met in the café at Student Central and sat on the neon stools. While I couldn’t be convinced to move *all* the tables to the appendix, that’s where most of them ended up, and all his other suggestions were very helpful. It was the last piece of the puzzle I needed before sending off the whole draft to the publishers for peer review. I’m glad that he at least got to see what some of it would look like, but it will always be bittersweet that he never knew that it all came to fruition.