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Dr J Michael Woodhouse

Members will be sorry to learn of the death of Dr J M (Michael) Woodhouse, formerly of the Department of Textile Industries.

Michael Woodhouse was born and brought up in Leeds, attending Roundhay School, and retained throughout his life a strong affection for the city his pen and ink outline of the Leodis owl was at least as familiar to his many friends as his signature. He studied at Oriel College, Oxford, as an Open Scholar, obtaining first a BA in Chemistry (1955) and then a DPhil (1959) in Organic Chemistry for research in the field of steroid chemistry.

He was appointed to the Department of Textile Industries in 1959 as a Wool Textile Research Council Fellow, working with Professor C S Whewell on the cross-linking of wool with THPC (Tetrakishydroxymethyl phosphonium chloride). After a further appointment as an I.C.I. Research Fellow (from 1961), he followed in the footsteps of his father, the late Dr M T Woodhouse (a Senior Tutor at the then City of Leeds Training College, Beckett Park) and in 1963 became a lecturer. He then moved into the Wool Division to work with Professor Alec Robson on the structure of wool, carrying out important work on the formation of Lysinoalanine cross-links when wool was treated with alkali.

During this period Michael was much involved with the day-to-day running of the chemical laboratory and the supervision of research students, but over the course of his career he was also to spend many years teaching the science of textiles to textile design and textile management undergraduate students. Michael had a real gift for explaining chemical concepts to those with little previous chemical training and was a superb demonstrator in practical textile science classes building, perhaps, upon his valuable earlier experience as a highly regarded Student Demonstrator at Oriel during his study at Oxford. He constantly sought novel ways to stimulate the interest of students, and was an innovator in teaching methods. Many of the simple experiments he devised to demonstrate scientific concepts were copied widely in schools after his participation in training courses for textile teachers, both within and outside the Department. The outcome of his endeavours was his highly rated textbook entitled Science for Textile Designers (1976), which provided a pioneering introduction to textile science for the non-specialist. It bridged the gap between the twin cultures of arts and science and demonstrated the value and relevance of a systematic study of textile science.

Michael also assumed a wide range of departmental responsibilities, including work associated with student admissions, assessment and timetabling, and he fulfilled an essential role in assuming oversight of the Departmental office and administration. He demonstrated an impressive grasp of the complexities and exigencies of the organisation of a very active department. As Registration Tutor he had a real empathy with the needs of the individual student but was nonetheless always mindful of the Universitys requirements a delicate balancing act which allowed him to solve many seemingly intractable problems. He also served on a large number of University committees, including the Faculty Boards of Engineering, Arts and Social Sciences and Sciences, to which he made a significant contribution. For several years he represented the University as a governor of both the Hemsworth College of Further Education and, subsequently, Trinity and All Saints College. He was also active in community education, in the broadest sense, working closely with the Schools Advisory Service for several years, and providing guest lectures on chemical and textile-related subjects for local schools and regional and national organisations. Although he retired from the University in 1991 his commitment was such that he continued to serve as first a Teaching Fellow and then an Honorary Teaching Fellow until 1996.

Above all, Michael Woodhouse was held in remarkably high personal regard by all those with whom he worked and studied, and those students who were inspired by his teaching and supervision. His careful, thoughtful and thorough approach to any task he undertook ensured an enviable reputation for reliability and success. It has been said of him by many former friends and colleagues that he was a kind and caring man who gave freely of his time to others and for whom nothing was too much trouble; yet he also possessed the strength of character to overcome with grace and good humour the obstacles which he faced, from time to time, in both his personal and professional life and the tenacity to persist with even the most difficult of tasks long after others might have been discouraged. He will be missed by staff and students alike for the outstanding enthusiasm and professionalism which he brought to his teaching and administrative work, but also for his estimable personal qualities and the sympathetic support and friendship which he was able to offer in such abundance. Michael was sustained throughout his life by his Christian faith and on retirement he became a lay preacher at St Columbas United Reform Church in Headingley. He is survived by his wife, Ann, and their daughter, Julia.