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Norman Allen, BSc, PhD, CEng, FIEE, CPhys, FInstP

Colleagues will be very sorry to hear of the death of Dr Norman Allen, former Senior Lecturer in the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering.

Born in Worcestershire, Norman Allen gained a first in Physics at Birmingham University in 1948, and then a PhD in Electron Physics in 1951. He spent many of the early years of his career abroad, first as a Research Fellow (in cosmic rays) at the National Research Council in Ottawa (1951-53) and then at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1953-56), where he studied ionized gases. On his return to the UK in 1956 he joined the team at Aldermaston, working on plasma physics as part of the early stages of the UK controlled thermonuclear reaction project.

Norman joined the University in 1963 as a Lecturer in the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, a role he very quickly expanded to also encompass an Associate Lectureship in the Department of Physics. This cross-boundary approach was to characterise his years at Leeds, during which he developed an impressive range of interdisciplinary and external collaborations. He was promoted to a Senior Lectureship in 1967 (when he also became the departmental Radiation Protection Supervisor) and after his retirement in 1992 he was re-engaged on a part-time basis as a Senior Research Fellow.

Initially his research interests included the application of plasma physics techniques to electrical engineering, but in 1975 he became interested in high voltage research and this was to remain his main focus of activity for two decades. Norman worked closely with colleagues in both Engineering and Physics, and excelled at building and motivating teams, across disciplinary and organisational boundaries. He was an energetic and talented researcher who contributed to an impressive range of papers, journals and conferences in the UK, Europe and the then USSR; and collaborative projects nationally (for example, City, Liverpool and Manchester Universities) and internationally (including the University of Stuttgart, the Ecole Supérieure d’Electricité France, and the Technical University of Mexico). The High Voltage (HV) laboratory that he ran was, at the time, the only fully equipped HV facility in the UK and had a well deserved international reputation.

As well as being active on many UK and European research grants, Norman also supervised a number of PhD students and was a popular lecturer on several undergraduate programmes, and upon Open University summer courses. He was a Fellow of the Institutes of Physics and of Electrical Engineers and a member of a range of internal committees, including several faculty boards, and external bodies.

Norman was a conscientious and reliable colleague, able to get along with people at all levels, whose talents lay in encouraging others to work together to pool expertise, and develop sound and thoroughly tested solutions informed by different subject specialisms. He was particularly successful at training junior colleagues and at imparting his enthusiasm for his subject to students and through schools liaison work. He will be remembered with great respect for his considerable academic contribution and with real affection for his personal warmth and supportiveness.

The funeral will take place on Tuesday 29 July. As a mark of the University’s respect, the flag on the Parkinson Building will be flown at half mast during the funeral.