Mike Blandamer, 1934-2014

A leading researcher in thermodynamics has died

March 27, 2014

Mike Blandamer, the son of a policeman, was born in Dorchester on 19 December 1934 and remained a passionate Dorset man for the rest of his life.

He studied for a BSc in chemistry at the University of Southampton (1957), followed by a PhD (1960). After a period of postdoctoral research at the National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa, he moved to the University of Leicester in 1961, where he was promoted from assistant lecturer to lecturer and then reader before becoming professor of physical chemistry in 1991.

Although he spent his whole career at Leicester, Professor Blandamer held visiting appointments at the University of Calgary in Canada and the Groningen Centre for Catalysis and Synthesis in the Netherlands. He was also involved in major collaborative projects, both with these institutions and with the Memorial University in Newfoundland.

At the heart of Professor Blandamer’s research was the kinetics of chemical reactions in aqueous solution and the factors that determine the rates at which they take place. Much of this had immediate industrial relevance. At Groningen, he was funded by Unilever for his unique expertise in analysing research data and modelling them accurately. He went on to work with his Leicester colleague, Paul Cullis, professor of organic and biological chemistry, on the fundamental properties of proteins and enzymes, to aid our understanding of how drugs bind to their targets.

Despite his many international connections, Professor Blandamer was always closely involved in his home institution and served as an elected member of Leicester’s senate from 1970 to 1973 and again from 1980 to 1983. He was admissions tutor in the department of chemistry from 1972 to 1987 and played an important role in nearby Nene College’s transition to become the University of Northampton, notably through the introduction of research degrees in leather technology.

Highly effective in communicating his enthusiasm for his subject, Professor Blandamer was an early advocate of the value of teaching his students communication and presentation skills. Largely after retirement, he created an online resource on thermodynamics, hosted on the university website, which has received more than a million hits worldwide.

As well as “a major contributor to thermodynamics and kinetics”, Professor Cullis recalled Professor Blandamer as “a fantastically avuncular character, very gregarious, larger than life, whom you always noticed at social gatherings. On open days, he would put on a balloon race with helium to entertain potential students.”

Professor Blandamer died on 15 February after an infection and is survived by his wife Anne and three sons.


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