Search site


Michael Barker

We are very sorry to have to let colleagues know that Dr Michael Barker, former Senior Lecturer in Medical Physics, died on 10 December 2006. The following obituary has been written friend and colleague, Dr Alan Smith:

Mike was born in 1940 in a small village near East Dereham in North Norfolk and remained devoted to Norfolk throughout his life; he was very proud that he had been able to trace his Norfolk ancestors back to the mid 18th century a real Norfolk Man. He attended Hamonds Grammar School in nearby Swaffham before obtaining a place in the Physics Department at Nottingham University, where he earned an honours degree. After spending two years working in the research laboratories of the English Electric Company in Stafford he moved to Oxford with his wife Marian, to the Department of Nuclear Physics in the University of Oxford, where he was involved in the building of their first particle accelerator. An obvious progression, therefore, was his appointment in 1969 to a physicist post in the University Department of Medical Physics at Leeds General Infirmary, from where he was seconded to the Department of Nuclear Medicine.

A significant proportion of his time was devoted to service work for the NHS and he played a key part in the development of medical imaging techniques. At this time the Department of Nuclear Medicine was pioneering the use of small computers for the on-line analysis of gamma camera images, something which is now an integral part of nuclear medicine imaging. Mike became actively involved with the application of the system to dynamic images, which led to the award, in 1977, of a PhD for a thesis entitled Tracer Measurements of Time Dependent Physiological Functions using a gamma scintillation camera and on-line computer. During this work Mike formed a close working relationship with the Department of Surgery, looking at gastric emptying. This collaboration was very productive and lasted many years, both as a routine diagnostic investigation and as research projects examining the effects of different surgical functions. He was later involved in a detailed study of the location of kidney stones using a radioactive tracer. This proved extremely beneficial in locating fragments of stones if they were broken during the surgical intervention.

In 1992 Mike was promoted to Senior Lecturer, and then in the mid Nineties to Head of Medical Physics at Leeds General Infirmary. As well as shouldering the administrative duties of this appointment, Mike was actively involved in the local trainee medical physicist programme, teaching medical Physics to undergraduate students in the Physics Department and general physics to student radiographers.

Following the amalgamation of the two NHS Trusts in Leeds in 1999, Mike was seconded to the School of Healthcare Studies as Head of the Division of Imaging Sciences, with the remit to foster links with the NHS, and to develop research activities and a postgraduate programme duties he discharged with his customary energy and efficiency.

Alongside his academic career, Mike also served as a sub-warden at Devonshire Hall and as the University representative on the Educational Advisory Panel of BBC Radio Leeds. The experience he gained and the reputation he established was such that in 2004, three years after his retirement, he was elected a member of the University Court as the representative of the William Akroyds Foundation. Mike also shared his experience with the wider community through his advisory work overseas, for example in Singapore and Turkey; his involvement with the Open Learning network; and by acting as a governor at Batley Grammar School from 1994, initially as the appointee from the University of Leeds, and then as an elected member, becoming Chair of the Governors for a period of five years.

Mike was involved in many areas outside his work and its associated commitments. As a mature student, he took lessons in the flute which eventually led to membership of the Leeds College of Music Symphonia Orchestra; participation in which gave him considerable pleasure and satisfaction. Not unsurprisingly, given his origins, Mike liked to get out into the countryside whenever time and health permitted, and spent several happy years during the 1970s as a volunteer part-time Warden in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. He was also a keen photographer, taking great pleasure in photographing Norfolk churches and recording his ancestral graves, and he always retained the dry sense of humour of the countryman.

His presence will be greatly missed both personally and professionally, and we extend above all our sympathies to his wife of many years, Marian.