Leslie Jesch, 1926-2016

A leading authority on the application of solar energy has died

July 21, 2016
Obituary: Leslie Jesch, 1926-2016

Leslie Jesch was born in Budapest on 16 June 1926 and received a diploma in engineering at the University of Technology (1953).

After moving to the United States, he spent a number of years in Pennsylvania. He worked as a project engineer at Air Products in Allentown (1956-58), secured an MSc at the University of Pennsylvania (1962) and went on to further positions as a group leader at the Sun Oil Corporation (1961-66) and senior combustion engineer at Westinghouse (1968-70).

After being awarded a PhD by the University of Leeds (1970), Dr Jesch emigrated to England and spent the next two decades as a lecturer in the University of Birmingham’s department of mechanical engineering, while also serving as managing director of Energy Engineering (1976-86) and, from 1980, chairman of the Franklin Company.

An enthusiastic kite-flyer, Dr Jesch attempted to break two records in 1973. One involved trying to control a kite 40,000 feet above the ground. The other was an endurance test that saw him trying to keep a kite flying for 48 hours without interruption, although his plans seem to have been scuppered by a lack of wind.

The main focus of Dr Jesch’s academic work and consultancy was always solar energy. He published a major study, Solar Energy Today (1981), as well as many shorter works, and collaborated extensively with the Burnville Village Trust (1973-88) and Pilkington Insulation (1985-90).

The Burnville Village Trust was responsible for a pioneering project known as the Rowheath Solar Village.

Ljubomir Jankovic, professor of zero carbon design at Birmingham City University, recalls “join[ing] the Solar Energy Lab at Birmingham University” in 1984 to start a PhD on the project, “where my PhD supervisor, Leslie Jesch, had designed passive and active solar systems. This development was the largest of [its] kind in northern Europe and the houses were affordable for first-time buyers.”

It was from Dr Jesch, Professor Jankovic went on, that he acquired “a strong passion for improving building performance through capturing solar energy” and learned the value of sheer hard work – carrying out “computational experiments and data analysis all day and all night” – in “striving to make a better world”.

Dr Jesch’s eminence in the field was recognised by a number of major positions in the International Solar Energy Society, including president for Europe (1993-95).

He died on 29 June after suffering from dementia and is survived by his wife, Katherine, and daughter Judith, professor of Viking studies at the University of Nottingham.


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