Thomas Brazil, 1952-2018

Tributes paid to electrical engineer who helped forge today’s science of mobile communications

May 17, 2018
thomas brazil

A scientist praised as one of the “brightest and most intelligent microwave engineers of our time” has died.

Thomas Brazil was born in County Offaly, in the Republic of Ireland, on 4 September 1952 and grew up in Dublin. He studied engineering at University College Dublin (1973), followed by a PhD in electronics (1977).

After working at Plessey Research at Caswell, Northamptonshire (1977-79) and then briefly at the University of Birmingham (1979), he returned to UCD in 1980 as a lecturer in electrical engineering and established the Radio Frequency and Microwave Research Group. He was promoted to professor in 2003.

Even in his early days, Professor Brazil gave many signs of an infectious passion for science. In his funerary tribute, Anthony Fagan, associate professor of electronic and electrical engineering at UCD, recalled a camping holiday when a group of doctoral students went for a drink in the pub and then decided to visit a weather station.

“The staff were actually very nice and welcomed us, saying that we had called at a good time as they were about to launch a weather balloon and we were welcome to watch,” he said. “They started to give us simplistic explanations of what they were doing, but after some very tough advanced questions from Tom about telemetry and about the principles underlying atmospheric measurements using microwave radiometry, they knew that they weren’t dealing with the average person who might wander in from the pub at midnight.”

At the still thriving research group that he founded, Professor Brazil established himself as a worldwide authority on radio frequency power amplifiers. He and his team carried out much essential research on radio transmitters and receivers. Since these are now to be found everywhere, not least in mobile phones, this gave him an important role in forging today’s science of mobile communications and he was acclaimed by David Rhodes, a leading figure in the field, as “one of the brightest and most intelligent microwave engineers of our time”.

Many other honours also came Professor Brazil’s way. He was consulted by the European Commission, elected a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in 2003 and elected to the Royal Irish Academy the year after. He was highly active in the IEEE’s Microwave Theory and Techniques Society, which has more than 13,000 members, and chosen by worldwide ballot to take over as president in 2018.

Professor Brazil retired from UCD in 2017, died suddenly on 13 April and is survived by his wife, Eileen, and three children.

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