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Obituary: David Batchelder - full obituary

Emeritus Professor David Batchelder

Very sadly, Emeritus Professor David Batchelder of the School of Physics and Astronomy died suddenly last Friday (6 June).

Born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, David Batchelder took his first degree in Physics at Williams College, a leading private college in the United States. During his time at Williams, he held an Alfred P Sloan Foundation Scholarship. Graduating in 1959, he completed an MSc (1961) and PhD (1965) at the University of Illinois, where he was also awarded a Clark Fellowship (1959-60) and a Sprague Fellowship (1963-65).

David Batchelder was appointed as Lecturer in Physics at Queen Mary College, London, in 1965. Promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1981 and to Reader in 1987, his research initially concentrated on extending his PhD studies into the molecular properties of argon and neon. The year 1974 brought a radical change of research direction, when, together with other colleagues at QMC, he established a group investigating the electronic, vibrational and mechanical properties of single crystals of polydiacetylenes, a family of polymers. Professor Batchelder recognised at an early stage that resonance Raman technology was ideally suited to the study of polydiacetylenes. This was the beginning of a long and fruitful interest in exploiting, developing and enhancing the potential of Raman spectroscopy as a powerful tool for the study of molecular materials.

Appointed Professor of Physics at Leeds in 1990, David Batchelder established the Molecular Physics and Instrumentation Group to investigate the physical behaviour and properties of materials at the molecular level. The group became an active and strong element of the Departments research activity. One important and conspicuous success was the development of the Raman microscope manufactured by Renishaw plc. Leeds and Renishaw were jointly awarded a Prince of Wales Award for Innovation in 1993, and the Annual Achievement Award of the Worshipful Company of Instrument Makers in 1994. Other projects undertaken by the Group ranged from the development of a miniature optoelectronic detector to monitor strain within aircraft structures to the development of equipment to detect hidden explosives. David Batchelder was an avid supporter of the benefit and opportunities offered by multidisciplinary research and he and his colleagues undertook much of their research on the frontiers of the interface between physics and biology. With his very open approach to scientific collaboration, David was influential in the foundation in 1993 of the Centre for Self-Organising Molecular Systems, an interdisciplinary centre bringing together a wide range of scientists and engineers interested in the way in which atoms and molecules self-organise: an area of key importance to nanotechnology. He leaves a considerable scientific legacy in the form of more than 150 published papers and nearly 20 filed patents. One of his papers was awarded the J J Thomson Premium of the Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1986. His professional activities included serving as Treasurer of the European High Pressure Research Group and on the committees of the Spectroscopy and Polymer Physics Groups of the Institute of Physics, and as a member of the editorial boards of a range of international journals and of the Scientific Advisory Group of the Max-Planck-Institut fr Polymerforschung in Germany.

Friendly, outgoing and generous, and with a gift for easy communication, David Batchelder quickly became well-known and well-liked throughout the campus. He was a popular and successful Head of the then Department of Physics from 1993 to 1996. During his period of office, he was responsible for bringing in a series of creative initiatives (including employing the services of a psychologist and a market research company) to increase student numbers, and for successfully positioning the Department for its 5 rating in the 1996 Research Assessment Exercise. As a colleague later put it, Davids door was always open to colleagues and students for support and the lively exchange of ideas. The least self-centred of men, David Batchelder took considerable pleasure in drawing on his considerable reservoir of expertise and knowledge to encourage and inspire the success and achievements of others. He also derived much pleasure from his lifelong interest in art, music and architecture.

Retiring from his Chair in 2003, Professor Batchelder continued his association with the School as Research Professor until 2006, and kept in close contact with his former colleagues thereafter. He is survived by his wife, Sin, daughters Meryl and Ceri, and by his grandchildren.

The funeral will be at Adel St John the Baptist Church, Leeds 16, at 3 pm on Friday, 13 June 2008. There are to be family flowers only but a collection will be taken for Heart Research UK. Adel Church is on the corner of Church Lane (which is off the A660) and Back Church Lane. Those attending the funeral are invited to join the family afterwards at Headingley Golf Club, Back Church Lane. Parking on Church Lane is limited but those intending to go on to the Golf Club after the church service may park at the Club and walk round to the Church.

The flag will be flown at half-mast on the Parkinson Building on Friday in Davids memory.

Published: 9 June 2008