Journalist and academic;

Born: January 25, 1964; Died: July 9, 2013.

Dr Kirsty Milne, who has died aged 49, was a highly regarded political journalist and academic.

She had a varied career in political journalism, starting out at the BBC and the New Statesman. After the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 she moved to the Sunday Herald then The Scotsman. In time though she sought new horizons and became an academic, studying and teaching at Harvard, London and Oxford.

As a journalist, she brought a forensic analytical ability to bear on her political subjects. Her columns were incisive, seeking the real issues behind political flannel and the motivations behind politicians' masks. Writing with verve, she challenged the assumptions that all too often go unremarked in politics. She had hoped that devolution would re-invigorate political debate, but grew frustrated as partisan political point scoring re-asserted itself as the defining characteristic of Scottish politics. It prompted her to change career, though she retained an interest in the constitutional debate.

She had excelled as a student at Magdalen College, Oxford, where she was awarded a First in English. Seeking a more stimulating focus after her career in jounalism, she returned to academia. Unsurprisingly to anyone who knew her, considerable success followed, initially as Neiman Fellow in journalism at Harvard, where she also went on to become a Fellow of the Centre for European Studies. While there she wrote an influential pamphlet for DEMOS asserting the new role of the media in manufacturing single-issue dissent as public disengagement from party politics grew.

Following her return to London she gained an MA in intellectual and cultural history from Queen Mary University of London. Returning to Magdalen College in 2006, she began work on a PhD, revelling in an environment that allowed her to exercise her innate curiosity.

Though a non-smoker, she was then diagnosed with lung cancer. Despite that news, she didn't just go on to complete her doctoral thesis – which considered the evolution of the phrase Vanity Fair from Bunyan to Thackeray – but also agreed a publishing deal for it. By now she was well established in her second career: she loved teaching at Oxford and her academic talent had been recognised with the award of a Leverhulme scholarship.

Anyone spending time in her company would quickly become conscious of her strong sense of her own identity. This ranged from her name (new friends were soon expected to remember her name was pronounced "Kiersty" nor "Kursty"), to her values.

She tended to want to believe the best of people. She had strong humanitarian beliefs and was appalled by prejudice. She had an instinct to care, with great empathy for those in need of support.

At heart she was private, shy of the spotlight outside her work environment. Those lucky enough to count her as a friend cherished the person as well as enjoying her intellect. She was genuine, loyal and warm – not to mention wilful. She took almost childish pleasure in simple things and broke into a delighted smile whenever something appealed to her.

In 2001 she married Hugh Shaw Stewart, a Scottish architect. They complemented each other and were relaxed and happy together.

She grew up near Glasgow and then London after her parents moved there in 1973. Her father, Alasdair Milne, became Director General of the BBC, and was renowned for the battles he fought to preserve that institution's independence from government in the 1980s, something of which Kirsty Milne was quietly proud.

Her mother, Sheila died in 1992 and her father died in January this year.

Kirsty Milne is survived by her husband, Hugh Shaw Stewart, and her brothers, Ruairidh and Seumas.