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peter young

Emeritus Professor Peter Young, MA, PhD, CEng, FIMM, FIMinE, MAusIMM

Emeritus Professor Peter Young, former Professor and Head of the Department of Mining and Mineral Engineering, died on 14 April 2011.

Born in Boston, Lincolnshire, in 1924, Peter Young attended the town’s grammar school.  He saw active service during the Second World War, serving in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) from 1942 to 1946.  He went on to read Natural Sciences at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge and to complete a PhD in Metallurgy.  Whilst at Cambridge he was Elmore Research Fellow and Ablett Prizeman.  He left Cambridge in 1954 to take up a post as Development Metallurgist at the Imperial Smelting Corporation in Avonmouth.   In the following year, he joined Head Wrightson, a major engineering company based on Teesside, as General Manager of Research and Development.  Later he was promoted to be the company’s Director of Research, a post he fulfilled with conspicuous success.  In 1965, he was appointed Director of the Australian Mineral Development Laboratories (AMDEL) which had been established five years previously to serve the country’s mining and metallurgical industries.  Under his guidance, AMDEL established itself as a leading independent consulting organisation with a world-wide reputation.

Peter Young returned to the UK in 1968 when he was appointed to Leeds as Professor and Head of the then Department of Applied Mineral Sciences.  He set about strengthening the mining activities of the department, as reflected in its change of name to Mining and Mineral Sciences (later Mining and Mineral Engineering).   A scientist of exceptional accomplishment, he initiated, fostered or reinvigorated research across a remarkably wide range.  This encompassed blast vibration monitoring, column flotation, gamma-ray on-stream analysis of coal ash content, mining geostatistics, high grade sand extraction and treatment, hydrometallurgy, iron ore agglomeration, underground mine environment, and the production of activated carbon from coconut shells.  A galvanising and stimulating presence, Peter Young displayed a remarkable facility for participating with acute perception and command of detail in discussions on every facet of the department’s broad span of research activity.  He published extensively.  His enthusiasm extended to his undergraduate teaching, including a first-year computing course.  With characteristic élan, he also organised the surveying of newly-discovered Roman sewers beneath York and the construction of a Roman surveying device. He nurtured the development of new degree programmes, including Quarry Engineering and Minerals Surveying.  It was in no small measure a tribute to the scientific strength and breadth he had engendered that when, at the end of the 1980s, it was decided at national level to combine his department with its Newcastle equivalent, it was also determined to locate the merged entity at Leeds.

Within the University, Peter Young served, inter alia, on the Senate, the Board of the Faculty of Engineering, the Committee on Relations with Industry and the Research Degrees Committee.  He initiated many overseas connections and collaborations, including a fruitful link with the University of Guyana. 

When he retired in 1990, the title of Emeritus Professor was conferred on Peter Young.  In retirement, his enthusiasm and energy remained undiminished.  He carried out consultancy work, undertook large-scale experiments on limestone calcination and relished the challenge of complex technical problems well into his eighties.  He was made a Fellow Commoner of St Catherine’s College in April 2006, and was asked by the Duke of Edinburgh, Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, to join a committee to advise on the development and direction of the University.  He also retained his lifetime affection for choral singing.  He had become a choirboy at a very young age; at St Catharine’s he had sung in the Chapel Choir and been President of the Music Society; and in Yorkshire had for many years been a member of the Harrogate Chamber Singers.  In retirement in Derbyshire, he sang each week in the Wirksworth Church Choir.
Peter Young’s wife, Margaret, predeceased him.  Later, he found considerable happiness with his partner, Margaret Spurr.

The funeral service took place in Lincoln Cathedral on 12th May