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Dr Tom Hughes

Thomas A Hughes

Sadly, Dr Tom Hughes, former Lecturer in Metallurgy in the School of Materials, died on 3 January 2006.

Tom Hughes entered the University in 1958 to read Metallurgy. Outstanding among the students in his year, he graduated with a First in 1961. He went on to pursue research in metallography (the investigation of the internal structure of metals), with particular reference to aluminium alloys as used in the then new Concorde aircraft. Awarded his PhD in 1965, he held a research fellowship at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology for two years, returning to Leeds at the beginning of 1967 to take up a post as Lecturer.

Tom Hughes was to be a mainstay of his department for well over two decades. An excellent teacher, he was greatly admired and respected by his students of all levels of academic ability for his dedication to their progress and welfare, his infectious and inspiring enthusiasm and his ability to present topics with clarity, insight and humour. Dr Hughes was also responsible for oversight of the Departments metallography facilities, both optical and electron optical. He was central to planning and securing Research Council funding for the development and expansion of these facilities to the point where they constituted one of the most extensively equipped and highly utilised facilities in the country, with an international reputation. He became an established authority in the field of scanning electron microscopy, which rapidly evolved to occupy a central place in materials research. The extensive skills and knowledge of Tom Hughes in the operation of sophisticated imaging equipment and the interpretation of results were invaluable to many research projects within the engineering faculty and beyond. With his own research students and also those from other departments, he promoted the application of electron microscopy techniques to a wide range of materials. He took a particular interest in the development of new materials for aero-engine and other high temperature combustion applications, producing a series of papers and establishing strong links with a number of manufacturing companies involved in the production of high temperature superalloys designed for creep, fatigue and oxidation resistance.

The services of Tom Hughes were sought after outside the University. He acted as metallurgical consultant to several companies and lectured extensively on courses organised by the Royal Microscopical Society both at Leeds and in other parts of the country. He was involved with the Leeds Metallurgical Society, serving for a time as its President. His quiz based on photographs of everyday objects as seen under the microscope proved a popular event at a succession of Open Days within the University. Varied overseas duties included contributions to the organisation of metallurgical courses at Chiang Mai University in Thailand and aspects of extraction metallurgy in plants at Mount Isa in Queensland.

Tom Hughes took early retirement from his post in September 1991, after nearly twenty-five years service. He was subsequently re-engaged on a part-time basis for three years and retained an active interest in metallurgical matters, including regular participation in learned society meetings, until shortly before his death.

Tom had for many years had a strong interest in railways, including the famous narrow gauge routes of his native North Wales. This interest, shared with his wife Susan, was expressed in the eventual purchase of Brockholes station on the Penistone Line. This became their home, which he restored with meticulous attention to detail and exceptional craft skills, matching those demonstrated in his professional work in microscopy and photomicrography.

The funeral of Tom Hughes took place on 12 January and was attended by a large number of friends and colleagues from his time in the University, many of whom had travelled from far afield. Railway friends too were present and the event concluded appropriately at Station House, Brockholes.

Dr Hughes is survived by his wife Susan and by his son David and daughter Sally.