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Professor Brian Tanner

Emeritus Professor

M.A., D. Phil., C Phys, F.Inst. P., F.H.E.A., F.R.S.A

Emeritus Professor in the Department of Physics
Member of the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies


Research Interest and Biography

Research interests

My research interests centre around the use of x-ray scattering to probe the structure of materials and the history of science in the High Medieval period.

I have worked extensively on the effect of strain on the mechanical and electronic properties of semiconductors and the relationship between structure and magnetic properties of thin film materials used for magnetic devices in the recording industry. Experiments have been performed at the Diamond Light Source at Didcot near Oxford with collaborators from Dublin and Freiburg. A current project is to explore the possibilities of extracting oxygen from (simulated) lunar regolith.

I am a member of the interdisciplinary Ordered Universe project studying the scientific works of the 13th century polymath, Robert Grosseteste and collaborate with Professor Giles Gasper on studies of natural phenomena recorded in the 12th and 13th century chronicles.Recent peer-reviewed journal publications include:X-ray Diffraction Topography (Imaging) of Crystals Grown from Solution: A Short Review, B. K. Tanner, Crystal Growth and Design 23 (2023) 3026-3033 []‘In the shape of a cooking pot over the fire’: Records of Solar Prominences in the 1180s, G M Gasper and B K Tanner, Endeavour 47 (3) (2023), 100875 []


Emeritus Professor Brian Tanner moved to Durham in 1973 as a University Lecturer, after holding a Junior Research Fellowship at Linacre College, Oxford.

Promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1983, Reader in 1986 and Professor in 1990, he served as Head of Durham University Physics Department from 1996-1999. From 1999-2000 he held a Sir James Knott Foundation Fellowship and from 2000-2001 he was a Leverhulme Research Fellow.

From 2000 part of his time was spent as Director of the North East Centre for Scientific Enterprise and subsequently as the Director of the University Technology Transfer Office. From 2008-2012 he was Dean of Knowledge Transfer in Durham University and from 2012 until his retirement in 2016 was its Dean for University Enterprise.

He has served on numerous Research Council committees and panels, and from 1998-2000 was chairman of a scientific review committee at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble.In 1978 he co-founded a spin-off company, Bede Scientific Instruments Ltd that floated on the London Stock Exchange in November 2000 as Bede plc. Still based in Durham, it is now part of the Bruker Corporation.

From 2003 until 2015, Professor Tanner was a non-executive director of another spin-out from Durham which has become the Kromek Group plc, floating on the London Stock Exchange AIM market in October 2013.

In 2005 he was jointly awarded the Barrett Award of the Pennsylvania-based International Center for Diffraction Data and in 2012 he received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion.

He received the Gabor Prize and Medal of the Institute of Physics in 2014.

He was Chair of the County Durham Economic Partnership from 2012 to 2020.

He is an enthusiastic amateur musician, being an organist as well as a double bass player and Committee Chair with the New Tyneside Orchestra.

Research interests

  • X-ray scattering and magnetism
  • Metallic multilayers
  • Semiconductors and ceramics
  • Medieval science

Esteem Indicators

  • 2017: Adjunct Professor Dublin City University: Visiting Chair in School of Electronic Engineering
  • 2014: Gabor Medal and Prize: Gabor Medal and Prize of the Institute of Physics for distinguished work in the application of physics in an industrial, commercial or business context.
  • 2012: Queen's Award for Enterprise Promotion: Queen's Award for Enterprise Promotion, National Honour, 2012
  • 2005: Barrett Award of ICCD: Barrett Award of the International Center for Diffraction Data, Pennsylvania. (Jointly with Keith Bowen, FRS, FREng)


Chapter in book

Conference Paper

Journal Article

Other (Print)