David Erskine died August 30, 2022, in Toronto. He was born in London, England in 1929, and spent his childhood years in a rural setting in a corner of England’s Lake District, where his family kept a garden, chickens, and goats. When David was seven, the Erskine family moved to Canada, settling on the outskirts of Wolfville, Nova Scotia. There he attended Acadia University, concentrating on botany. Graduate studies in botany followed at Berkeley, California, but complications with the U.S. military draft drove him back to Canada in the 1950s. David then enrolled in the graduate programme in geography at the University of Toronto, where he earned an MA. He began his geography teaching career at the University of Toronto, then taught at the University of Ottawa, and finally at York University in 1971-78.
He taught courses in plant geography, pedogeography and the regional geography of Canada. David’s botanical background, and keen perception of landscape were effectively applied in instructing geography field courses. In 1960 he published Plants of Prince Edward Island (270 pp. with numerous maps showing distribution of species). David wrote the chapter on Atlantic Canada in the 1968 CAG volume commemorating the Centennial of Canadian Confederation, and he maintained a scholarly interest in all aspects of that region.
David had broad interests and read very widely. Possessing an outstanding memory, he remembered and thought deeply about what he read, and enjoyed exchanging ideas with colleagues and students. He was reserved by nature, but always paid very close attention to the views expressed by others, invariably responding directly and candidly to the issues or points under discussion, often movng the dialogue into fresh areas. He had an inherently critical mind, and he stimulated a similar critical scrutiny of ideas in others. Such discussions were some of David’s best teaching. He kept in touch with friends from his graduate school and teaching days by post, and by conversation when they could actually meet. Geographers who came to know David in Ontario, some later scattered across the country, valued their intellectually invigorating exchanges with him
His colleagues from his years at York recall his gentle soul, that he was a bibliophile, his love of classical music, and they have many other good memories of David. He is survived by his daughter Maria in Toronto, and son John in Victoria, B.C.