Marshall Stoneham, 1940-2011

March 3, 2011

A theoretical materials physicist, an entrepreneur, a journal editor and a keen horn player: Marshall Stoneham was a man of many talents.

Professor Stoneham was born on 18 May 1940 in Barrow-in-Furness and was educated at Barrow Grammar School for Boys. He studied for his undergraduate degree and doctorate at the University of Bristol.

In 1964, he joined the theoretical physics division at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Harwell, where he spent more than three decades.

During his time there, he held positions that included head of the solid-state and quantum physics group in the theoretical physics division, head of the materials science and metallurgy division, and chief scientist at the Atomic Energy Authority.

It was at Harwell that Richard Catlow, now dean of mathematical and physical sciences at University College London, first encountered Professor Stoneham.

"He was a very exciting person to work with," he recalled. "He had lots of ideas, he was very stimulating and entertaining. He was also hugely supportive. When I was setting up shop as a young lecturer, he gave me a lot of practical support. He played a key role in getting my career going."

In 1995, Professor Stoneham joined UCL as the first Massey professor of physics and director of the Centre for Materials Research. He became emeritus professor at UCL in 2005 and remained active in the field of physics, becoming the president of the Institute of Physics in October 2010.

He was also editor-in-chief of the institute's Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter.

Professor Catlow praised Professor Stoneham's "encyclopaedic" knowledge of his subject. "If you wanted to know anything about a material, you'd go to talk to Marshall. If he didn't know himself, he knew exactly where to find the information."

He added: "You always felt after a chat with him that you'd learned something from him, even if you didn't necessarily agree with him. He was an inspirational character."

Professor Stoneham was also a musicologist and amateur horn player who played in a long-standing wind octet. Alongside his research in physics, he carried out research into wind instruments, which resulted in the prize-winning book Wind Ensemble Sourcebook and Biographical Guide.

With his wife, physicist Doreen Stoneham, he founded Oxford Authentication, a company that authenticates fine-art ceramics by thermo-luminescence dating.

He died on 18 February 2011 after a short illness and is survived by his wife and two daughters.

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