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Stephen Clarkson is pictured with Adrienne Clarkson on Sept. 24, 1969.Harry McLorinan/The Globe and Mail

Stephen Clarkson, a prominent University of Toronto political scientist, former mayoral candidate and biographer of Pierre Trudeau, has died after falling ill while on a research trip in Europe. He was 78.

The university's department of political science said it received news of his death Sunday evening in a message from his wife, Nora.

"Stephen passed away this afternoon in a hospital in Freiburg after having got an influenza virus in Portugal during his work with his students. It developed very quickly into a pneumonia and very soon after into an incurable sepsis," the message said.

As a husband-and-wife team with his second wife, the late Christina McCall, Prof. Clarkson was a co-author of a two-volume biography of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, which featured the often-quoted memorable opening sentence about the former prime minister: "He haunts us still."

In an e-mail to faculty and students, Louis Pauly, chair of the department of political science, said "Stephen was a pillar of the Department for many decades. He was a great friend, a most dedicated teacher, and an indefatigable scholar."

At Massey College, where Prof. Clarkson was a senior fellow, the college flag will be flown at half-mast until his funeral.

"Dr. Clarkson was a distinguished, and widely read political scientist who focused on important analysis of North American, Liberal Party and Canadian economic development, trade history, prospects and issues," the college's master, Hugh Segal, wrote in a letter distributed to fellows and alumni.

Prof. Clarkson was born Oct. 21, 1937, the seventh child of George Elliott Clarkson and Alice Helene Mannaberg. He grew up on a farm outside Toronto because his father, an engineer by training, wanted to live in the country. He credited his mother as "the spiritual force in the family," who instilled in him his work ethic and competitive spirit.

He was educated at Upper Canada College, studied at the University of Toronto, was a Rhodes scholar in 1958 and then a Woodrow Wilson fellow. He did graduate studies at Oxford University and the Sorbonne.

While at the University of Toronto's Trinity College, he met Adrienne Poy, who as Adrienne Clarkson would become a broadcaster and governor-general. They married in 1963, and the following year he joined U of T as a lecturer.

He was active outside of academia, getting involved in municipal politics, fighting over development in the downtown and opposing the proposed Spadina Expressway project. Concerned by what he later called "the fear of creeping, American-style urban blight," he ran for mayor under the Liberal Party banner in 1969 but came in third.

His political engagement and Ms. Clarkson's rising visibility as an author and television personality gave them a measure of fame. They were profiled in a 1970 episode of the CBC series Telescope, which portrayed them as a busy, glamorous couple.

"In a way, that's just the way I like living. There's all sorts of balls that I am juggling and keeping going in motion at the same time," Prof. Clarkson told the program.

After they split up in 1973, he retained custody of their two daughters. He later met Ms. McCall, a political journalist working for The Globe and Mail, to discuss the 1974 federal election. They were married in 1978.

Together, they wrote a two-volume biography of Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

The first volume of Trudeau and Our Times was published in 1990 and was awarded the Governor-General's prize for non-fiction.

His interest in Canadian political economy led to another book, Canada and the Reagan Challenge, which won the John Porter prize.