Robert Allan Smith

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Robert Allan Smith

Born(1909-05-16)16 May 1909
Died16 May 1980(1980-05-16) (aged 71)
Alma mater University of Edinburgh
Emmanuel College, Cambridge
Spouse(s)Doris Marguerite Louise Ward
ChildrenJoy, Margaret and Alistair
Scientific career
Institutions Cavendish Laboratory
University of St Andrews
University of Reading
Bawdsey Research Station (BRS)
Royal Radar Establishment
University of Sheffield
MIT
Heriot-Watt University

Dr Robert Allan Smith CBE FRS PRSE (14 May 1909 – 16 May 1980) was a Scottish mathematician and physicist. [1] [2] [3]

Contents

Biography

Smith (known to his friends as Robin, and more widely as “RA”) was born in Kelso on 14 May 1909, the elder of two sons of George J T Smith, a tailor, and his wife, Elisabeth (née Allan), a ladies’ dressmaker. His education was initially at local village schools, followed by Kelso High School. In 1926 he entered the University of Edinburgh to study mathematics and natural philosophy, and gained his MA with first-class honours in 1930. He was also awarded a scholarship that took him to Emmanuel College, Cambridge where he read for the Maths Tripos Part II, obtaining his MA in 1932.

Smith's first research was at the Cavendish Laboratory, where he worked on the theory and experiment of atomic collisions. [3] An extension of this work, with Harrie Massey, led to his first paper, with Massey, in 1933. They then turned their attention to negative ions, and further papers resulted. Smith was awarded his PhD in 1935. After brief spells at the University of St Andrews and the University of Reading, he was engaged in war work. He joined the staff of Bawdsey Research Station (BRS) on the Suffolk coast, working on the Chain Home {CH} network of early warning radar stations.

BRS moved to Dundee at the outbreak of war, and then to Worth Matravers, near Swanage. It was later renamed the Telecommunications Research Establishment, and Smith was now working on beacon navigational systems, and especially Gee. In May 1942 TRE moved yet again, this time to Malvern College. At the end of the war the College's facilities were needed again, and so TRE moved elsewhere in Malvern, to HMS Duke, later becoming the Royal Radar Establishment. Smith's work in the war years was recognised by the award of a CBE in 1960. [4]

In 1961 Smith was invited to become Professor of Physics at the University of Sheffield, but it wasn't a world he felt comfortable in, [3] and he started exploring the idea of going to MIT. The following year he was elected FRS. He then joined MIT and was appointed Director of the Materials Science Center. He was provided with 14 000m2 of space for research and teaching, and, by 1967 was in charge of 55 professors, 19 other academic staff and 179 graduate students. “R A ’s main contribution was to bring groups of people together and create suitable conditions for collaborative research to flourish”. [3]

In 1968 Smith was appointed Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University. Before he retired from this post in 1974 he oversaw major expansions in building programmes, the quality and quantity of students and staff, degrees awarded, papers published, new research grants and 12 new Chairs. In recognition of his many achievements Smith was awarded an Honorary DSc in July 1975. [5]

In 1973 Smith was appointed to the Council of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and in October 1976 was elected its 32nd President, which office which he held until October 1979. He was elected FRSE in 1969. [6]

Family

Smith met his future wife, Doris Marguerite Louise Ward, through the CICCU. They married in Cambridge on 15 December 1934, and had three children: Joy, Margaret and Alistair.

Robert Allan Smith died on 16 May 1980.

Books

Related Research Articles

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References

  1. SMITH, Prof. Robert Allan’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2012 ; online edn, Nov 2012 accessed 15 May 2013
  2. http://www.nahste.ac.uk/cgi-bin/view_isad.pl?id=GB-0582-HWU-1-19&view=basic [ dead link ]
  3. 1 2 3 4 S.D. Smith, Robert Allan Smith, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, vol.28, 479-504, 1982.
  4. "Robert Allan Smith, Esq., Chief Scientific Officer, Royal Radar Establishment, Ministry of Aviation". Supplement to the London Gazette: 3983. 11 June 1960.
  5. "Heriot-Watt University Honorary Graduates" (PDF). Heriot-Watt University. Retrieved 17 December 2020.
  6. "Former RSE Fellows 1783-2002" (PDF). Royal Society of Edinburgh. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 September 2020. Retrieved 17 December 2020.