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The University of Southampton

Tribute to leading Professor in Chemistry

Published: 9 September 2013
Alan Carrington

Alan Carrington, who died on 31st August after a long illness, was one of the foremost spectroscopists in the UK, if not the world.

Educated at the University of Southampton, B.Sc, 1955, Ph.D under the supervision of Martyn Symons working on esr spectroscopy, 1959. Alan had spent a year in Minnesota as Research Fellow, 1957/8, and became a Fellow of Downing College Cambridge 1959-1967, where he interacted from 1960 with Christopher Longuet-Higgins, and was assistant director of research 1963-67.  In 1967 he returned to Southampton as Professor of Chemical Physics, one of the youngest professors in the University, and indeed the UK at the time. For those of us who were starting our academic teaching and research careers at the time, Alan was a true inspiration to us, leading by example, and contributing enormously to the wonderfully productive atmosphere in the Department. His huge enthusiasm for his own subject was infectious, and we were inspired by his success and competitive spirit. From 1979 to 1984, Alan was Royal Society Research Professor in Southampton, and again from 1987-1999, having spent 1984-87 in the Chemistry Department in Oxford, and at the PCL, and as a Fellow of Jesus College.

His successes included many prizes of the Royal Society of Chemistry [or its forebears], the Harrison Memorial Prize 1962; the Meldola Medal 1963; the Marlow Medal [of the then Faraday Society] 1966, the Corday Morgan Medal 1967, the Tilden Lectureship and Prize, 1972, The Faraday Medal 1985, and the Longstaff Medal 2005. In 1971 Alan was elected Fellow of the Royal Society, and was awarded the Royal Society Davy Medal 1992, and became a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences in 1994. Alan Carrington served as President of the Faraday Division of RSC from 1997-1998, and became FRSC in 1989; Fellow of the Institute of Physics 1993. Alan Carrington played a very supportive role in bringing together RSC and other European societies to create Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, now one of the flagship RSC journals.

Alan's contributions to science were initially in the area of esr spectroscopy, and magnetic resonance generally. He wrote the classic book on the subject ‘Introduction to Magnetic Resonance with Applications to Chemistry and Chemical Physics', and many others. In an era where research has been increasingly subject to demands for wealth creation, impact etc, Alan Carrington always held firm to the belief that fundamental research was all-important, and never deviated from his pursuit of excellence in fundamental science. He was particularly and justly proud of his work on the vibrational spectroscopy of the simplest possible triatomic species, H3containing just two electrons, which made simpler  the theoretical calculation of the structures leading to the incredibly rich spectra observed experimentally.  The quality of his contributions to chemical physics is well-illustrated by the international success he enjoyed.

Alan Carrington brought the same passion and commitment he had to his science to his other pursuits, cricket, and sailing amongst them, but most notably his music. He was an accomplished pianist, and delighted in performing, once accompanying singer[ Nobel Laureate] Gerhard Herzberg. Hilary Carrington shared Alan's love of music, being a singer herself. The music genes clearly showed up in their offspring, Sarah, Rebecca and Simon,  two of whom, Rebecca [viola] , and Simon [tympanist] going on the play in major London Orchestras. Simon is currently Principal Tympanist at the London Philharmonic Orchestra. It was always a pleasure to run into Alan and Hilary at the Royal Festival Hall in London when they were attending concerts performed by Simon and Rebecca as recently as last year.   In the early days in Southampton, and later, Alan and Hilary were generous to their colleagues, particularly the younger members of staff, and many memorable parties were enjoyed at their home.

Alan Carrington was a superb scientist, a devoted family man, an accomplished musician,  and a generous and supportive colleague. He will be missed.


Prof. David Phillips


Alan Carrington CBE, FRS [6th January 1934-31st August 2013]

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