Alan Michette, 1950-2013

A leading international expert on X-ray physics has died

May 30, 2013

Alan Michette was born in Norwich on 1 February 1950 and studied for a BSc in physics at University College London (1968-71) and then a PhD in particle physics (1971-75), winning a faculty medal and several departmental prizes along the way. He was also involved in research leading to the discovery of weak neutral currents, which was eventually awarded the European Physical Society Particle Physics Prize in 2009.

On completing his doctorate, Professor Michette secured a Science Research Council fellowship (1975-76) and worked as a research associate at what is now the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford (1977-80), while also acting as a visiting lecturer at Queen Elizabeth College, London (1979- 80). He took up a full-time lecturing post there in 1981.

Professor Michette moved over to King’s as the physics departments in 1984 and then the colleges themselves in 1985 were merged. He served as lecturer in physics from 1981 to 1989, reader in physics from 1989 to 2001, and finally professor of physics from 2001 until his death. He was also acting head of department from 2011.

As his research developed, Professor Michette became an international authority on soft X-rays and the practical applications in fields ranging from cellular probing to the analysis of wood fibre composites. He was the author of more than 200 articles and of a number of jointly edited collections such as Modern Developments in X-Ray and Neutron Optics (with Alexei Erko, Mourad Idir and Thomas Krist, 2008), as well as a general overview of the field, X-Rays: The First Hundred Years (1996), written with his wife Slawka Pfauntsch. He was also closely involved in the COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) framework.

Alongside his research duties, Professor Michette continued to teach undergraduates and was for many years the staff representative to the Maxwell Society, the King’s student physics society. He was also actively involved in outreach activities, including a programme to take cosmic ray detectors into schools. He was a member of the academic committee of the Cumberland Lodge in Windsor, and it was there, just after this year’s annual lecture, that Professor Michette collapsed, on 8 May, with a fatal heart attack. He is survived by his wife and his son Martin.

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