Alistair Watson grew up in Perthshire, attending Grandtully Primary School and later Breadalbane Academy in Aberfeldy, where he was School Captain and Joint Dux. With an aptitude for Maths and Science, he set his sights on studying Engineering at University, intending to become an aeronautical engineer, only to be told by his science teacher, “engineers are ten a penny; do pure science”. He followed this advice, “describing it as the only piece of career advice I ever got” by applying to Edinburgh and Glasgow to study Physics. He was drawn to Edinburgh University (partly because of his support for Hibernian FC) and accepted that offer, commencing his degree in 1960. After two years, he decided he preferred Maths to Physics and switched to a degree in Mathematical Sciences. During his third year, he had a choice between Numerical Analysis and Statistics. Having tried both for a while, he opted to continue with the numerical analysis option, covering topics including rounding errors, interpolation, orthogonal expansions, Fourier and Chebyshev series, finite differences, various difference operators, numerical integration, initial value problems for ordinary differential equations, iterative methods for solving equations, the power method for eigenvalue problems, and Gaussian elimination. He graduated in 1964 with a first-class Honours degree in Mathematical Sciences. Read more about Alistair Watson
Brian Glover Gowenlock, FRSE 1969, Professor of Chemistry and Head of the Department of Chemistry, Heriot-Watt University 1966 – 1987, Dean of the Faculty of Science, Heriot-Watt University 1969 – 1972 and 1987 – 1990 and Vice-Chairman of the University Grants Committee 1983 – 1985, was born on 9th February 1926 in Oldham, Lancashire. He was the younger son of Harry and Hilda Gowenlock and his father was an office worker at Platt’s Mill, Oldham.
A strong early influence was his maternal grandfather, a self-educated man, who instilled in Brian the love of learning. Brian was proud of his Lancastrian roots and retained traces of his Oldham accent to the end of his life. Read more about Brian Gowenlock
Professor Ronald Drever was co-founder, with Kip Thorne and Rainer Weiss, of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which in September 2015 made the first direct observation of gravitational waves. Seven months after Drever’s death Thorne and Weiss shared the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics for LIGO’s innovation and success. Ronald was born on 26 October 1931 in Bishopton, Renfrewshire. His father (George Douglas Drever) had, following distinguished Army service in WWI in Mesopotamia and the North-West Frontier, been awarded a medical scholarship. His GP training took him to Northumberland, where he met, and in 1929 married, Mary (Mollie) Matthews, following which he set up as a GP in Bishopton. Ronald started school at Glasgow Academy at the age of five in 1936. He hated school, largely due to a severe and persistent writing difficulty. However, he showed an early talent for creative design and construction, developing expertise in using Meccano, mirrors, magnets and electric motors. The outbreak of war in 1939 interrupted his education, and he transferred to the local school in Bishopton before returning to Glasgow Academy in 1943 (with his younger brother Ian). With the war still on, this involved the young boys travelling alone to and from Glasgow in the black-out, having to flash a tiny torch to stop the bus. Read more about Ron Drever
Robert McQuillin was a well known geophysicist who contributed significantly to the subject through his work with both the Land and Marine sections of the British Geological Survey and subsequently in the Hydrocarbons Industry, latterly running an international consultancy. Robert was born on May 28th 1935 at Brampton in Cumberland where he attended school. It was an area which engendered a love of the high fells and probably influenced his choice of career. He graduated in 1957 from Durham University with a joint degree in Physics and Geology. This qualification meant he was well suited to the new world of geophysics and he joined the British Geological Survey working on a wide range of land surveys, gaining extensive experience on the acquisition and interpretation of seismic, gravity and magnetic data. He also completed an MSc degree in 1961 from Birkbeck College. In 1966 he was selected to lead and define the specifications for a Marine Geophysics unit whose remit was to carry out a regional survey of the UK continental Shelf. Read more about Robert McQuillin
Dr James Ian Summers Robertson, former Honorary Consultant Physician in the Medical Research Council Blood Pressure Unit at the Western Infirmary in Glasgow and Senior Consultant in Cardiovascular Medicine at Janssen Research Foundation in Belgium, died peacefully on Friday 22nd March 2019, aged 91 years.
Born on 5th March 1928 in Welbeck, Nottinghamshire and educated at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, and then St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, University of London, Ian graduated Bachelor of Science with 1st Class Honours in Human and Comparative Anatomy in 1949 and Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery with Honours, and Distinctions in Medicine and Pathology, in 1952. At St Mary’s he also found time to be captain of both cricket and soccer. He was admitted as a member of the Royal College of Physicians of London in 1954, and was subsequently elected as a Fellow. Read more about Ian Robertson
Andrew Ranicki (born 30 December 1948, London, and died 21 February 2018, Edinburgh) spent his early years with his parents in Poland and Germany. Later, after a few years at school in Canterbury, he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated with a BA in 1969, and a PhD. in 1973 under the supervision of Frank Adams and Andrew Casson. A Research Fellow at Trinity College during 1972-77, he spent the next five years at Princeton University, before taking up a Lectureship in the Department of Mathematics at Edinburgh University in 1982. He worked at Edinburgh for the rest of his career, being appointed as Professor of Algebraic Surgery 1995–2016. Read more about Andrew Ranicki
Versatile physicist and pioneer of synchrotron radiation research
Geoff Marr was born in Haughton le Skerne, Darlington, County Durham, the son of John and Florrie (née Vickers). He was educated at Darlington Queen Elizabeth Grammar School before gaining a scholarship to the University of Manchester, where he studied physics under PMS Blackett FRS. Moving to post-graduate studies at the University of Reading, Geoff worked on the photoionization of metal vapours under the supervision of RW Ditchburn FRS. This set the direction for much of Geoff’s subsequent research on fundamentals of photoionization in the extreme ultraviolet (XUV) region. It was during this time that Geoff met and married Jean Tebb, daughter of John and Ruth, also hailing from Darlington. After his PhD, Geoff, accompanied by Jean, took up a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Western Ontario, where his work assumed a more applied emphasis with studies of the spectroscopy of flames, and laboratory observation of spectra of triatomic carbon that are significant in astrophysics. At the end of the fellowship, Geoff and Jean, now with their first son Peter, moved to Montreal where Geoff joined the physics department at McGill University. This signalled a further change in research direction to microwave electron spin resonance spectroscopy in solids, and development work on solid-state masers. Read more about Geoff Marr