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Professor Tom McLeish

Everyone at Durham University is saddened by the death of Professor Tom McLeish, FInstP, FRSC, FRS, who was our Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) from 2008 to 2014.

Tom was also a member of our Department of Physics until 2018 when he joined the University of York where he was York’s first Chair of Natural Philosophy.

Tom’s main scientific discipline was theoretical physics, but this was only a small part of a gigantic range of interests and work across science, social sciences, arts and humanities.

Advocate of interdisciplinary research

He was an enthusiastic member of the Senior Common Room in St Mary’s College and a great advocate of interdisciplinary research at our Institute of Advanced Study, as well as being Director of the Durham Centre for Soft Matter.

Together with Reverend Professor David Wilkinson, Principal of St John’s College, Tom conceived the initial idea of Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science (ECLAS), wanting to change the culture among senior Christian leaders in their view of science – from fear to joy.

Alongside his world-leading scientific research, Tom also pioneered interdisciplinary work in medieval science and theology, working with Professor Giles Gasper, in our Department of History, and others on the Ordered Universe project.

It was very much part of Tom’s desire to bridge sciences and the humanities in ways that enrich the understanding of all. Indeed, shortly before his death Tom continued to work with great joy as co-editor on a project resulting in a multi-authored book, Eclipse & Revelation Total Solar Eclipses in Science, History, Literature, and the Arts, forthcoming with Oxford University Press.

Tom was a Fellow of the Institute of Physics (FInstP), a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC) and in 2011 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS). He was also a Senior Associate Fellow at Pembroke College, University of Oxford. 

An Anglican lay reader, in 2018 Tom was awarded the Lanfranc Award for Education and Scholarship by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Loved and respected

Tom demonstrated generous friendship to all, eager to serve, help, comfort and encourage.

Loved and respected for his humility, his sense of fun and commitment to truth, generations of students and colleagues were shaped by his work and his life.

Tom will be greatly missed by all who knew him, and our thoughts and sincere condolences are with his family and friends at this time.

Read the full obituary for Professor Tom McLeish here.