Links 10  : from David Vass

map, Drummond Street: top right

Calton Studios

Research in Liquid Crystal Micro-displays at The University of Edinburgh

HT lab


Many happy returns on your 80th birthday.

I remember well meeting you for the first time as my Director of Studies in your room at the top of the stairs in the Physics Department in Drummond Street.  That was in October 1957.  I wanted to take Physics 1A, Mathematics 1A and Chemistry 1, but was rather surprised to leave with a Fee Pass prescibing Mathematical Physics 1 instead of Chemistry.  It was very good advice and I have appreciated your wise guidance throughout my career including my time as your PhD student in the old HT lab.

We were the first cohort to study quantum mechanics in final year using your newly published text "Non relativistic quantum mechanics", and I have had many occasions since to refer back to it.  Looking back over forty-odd years I continue to be extremely impressed by the way you took the developments in the subject over the period 1925 to 1959 and presented them in a lucid and concise way.  I was about to say "logical way" but then quantum mechanics is far from being a logical subject (in my opinion at least).  Many authors have consulted your text over the years when writing their own books, and invariably they recognise and acknowledge the very high standard of your scholarship.

You have always had a very keen interest in optics and always promoted good teaching practices.  Do you remember the occasion in the late 1960s when our video film on Fraunhofer Diffraction was premiered in lecture room B in Drummond St?  It was a bit of a shock doing the recording at the Calton Studios.  We had naively thought that we could record short snippets until we got everything right and that the producer would edit these into a perfect sequence with all the mistakes removed.  Unfortunately the lecture and demonstrations had to be recorded straight off with no breaks!  No wonder the production assistant had to run on to the set with the powder puff to take the sheen off our foreheads!  It was a great experience, the video was frequently used in the Physics 2 lab for several years, and I am always grateful to you for including me in the project.

In the 1980s the Applied Optics Group had exciting times under your leadership developing SLMs and using them for research in coherent optical systems.  The research has had a remarkable impact on the UK economy particularly in Scotland.  There is now a sizeable operation in Fife where MicroPix and CRL-Opto are producing devices for the commercial displays market and of course Ian Underwood has spun out the successful company MED (MicroEmissive Displays).  There is also the commercial developments at Boulder in the USA. Quite an achievement.  We were delighted when you were elected a Fellow of the Optical Society of America in recognition of your excellent work in optics spanning many years and including the crucial experiments on photon correlations carried out in the 1960s and 70s.  I am sure others will have more to say on that topic.

On a more lighthearted note I remember your great sense of humour.  We had a good laugh in the HT Lab at the card you sent from the Hebrides where you and Winifred spent a holiday one summer in a remote cottage.  It showed the local lighthouse.  On the reverse side was the cryptic comment: "Enjoying our holiday.  We can read in bed for four seconds every minute!"

Isobel joins me in sending our best wishes to you both.  She attended your lectures on light and sound in Physics 1A in 1958 and often says how good a lecturer you were.

And I remember the Saturday morning in December 196? when you brought in your young son to use the lathe in the old HT lab to turn a Christmas present for his mother.  May you, Winifred and all the members of your family have many more happy years together.

Happy birthday,

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