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Tributes paid to University of Cambridge researcher Jonathan Gilmour, 35: ‘A shining light who will be dearly missed’

A “shining light” and “a wonderful man” were among the many warm tributes to Jonathan Gilmour, a graduate of St John’s College and researcher who has died, aged 35.

Jonathan was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy – a life-limiting condition – at the age of seven and he had to use a wheelchair since he was 13. He got straight As at A-level to secure his place at St John’s to study theology and religious studies. He graduated with a first before taking an MPhil.

Jonathan Gilmour at his MPhil graduation
Jonathan Gilmour at his MPhil graduation

Although Jonathan had been socially very active as a student, he had been absent from college since the start of the pandemic because of the risk posed to him by infection.

He continued to write up his dissertation at his family home in Hampshire and was on course to finish his PhD.

Professor Jason Robinson, one of Jonathan’s former tutors, said: “Jonathan was a shining light in our college community for more than a decade and a half.

“He was intellectually brilliant with an extraordinary wit and knack to make anyone laugh when they needed it most. He never complained about his health, but took every opportunity to bring joy and smiles into people’s lives.

“He will be dearly missed by many.”

Jonathan Gilmour, aged seven, before he was diagnosed
Jonathan Gilmour, aged seven, before he was diagnosed

Another former tutor, Dr Matthias Dörrzapf, added: “Jonathan has been an amazing student, researcher, colleague and friend. Academically, he achieved outstanding results and his research is very well respected.

“We feel very lucky Jonathan had chosen us for his education and we feel proud to have been part of his educational and life journey. We will miss him very much.”

And senior tutor Richard Partington said: “Jonathan was a wonderful man who lived life to the full despite suffering from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a progressive, muscle-wasting illness, since childhood.

“I have already received heartfelt messages of condolence directed towards Jonathan’s family and friends, and to all in the college who had the benefit of knowing him over his many years as a highly valued member of our community.”

Jonathan Gilmour at his BA graduation in 2008
Jonathan Gilmour at his BA graduation in 2008

Jonathan is survived by his parents, Brian and Angela, and two sisters.

Speaking last year, Jonathan said “everyone at St John’s really cares about the students” and he “always felt included and had a place and belonged.”

“Other disabled people need to know that having a disability does not mean that the doors of the world’s top universities are closed to you – I have thrived at St John’s,” he said.

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