Professor John Alastair Duffy obituary

Born 1932, died 2015. A graduate of the Department of Chemistry (BSc Chemistry 1955, PhD Chemistry 1958).

John Duffy rose to academic prominence in inorganic chemistry, in particular the application of electronic spectroscopy in the fields of molten salts and glasses. He co-originated “optical basicity”, a concept used worldwide for chemical problems, notably in glass and metal production, and geochemistry. This contribution to science will have lasting effects.

Born and brought up in Solihull, West Midlands, he was a pupil at Solihull School, and a child evacuee during WWII . After graduating from The University of Sheffield, he became a research chemist at Albright & Wilson. It was around this time that he met Muriel, whom he married in Carlisle in 1959. He lectured at Flintshire Technical College, Wolverhampton Polytechnic, and NE Wales Institute, before they moved to Aberdeen when he joined the chemistry department of Aberdeen University in 1966, where he remained throughout his scientific career until emeritus professorship.

He was author of several academic books including “General Inorganic Chemistry” (1966) and “Bonding, Energy Levels and Bands in Inorganic Solids” (1990). He published over 150 scientific papers and in 1992 was awarded The University of Aberdeen Blackwell Prize. He forged consultancy and collaboration with the British Steel Corporation, Scottish HE Funding Council, Pilkington; and internationally with Schott Glass, and The National Hellenic Research Foundation.

A kind, modest man, yet of analytical mind, he made abiding friendships throughout his life. With a keen interest in music, he played French horn and timpani in local orchestras, and had a passion for opera. He enjoyed cycling and rail travel.

His marriage was idyllic. Suffering the sudden loss of Muriel in a car crash in 2012 was devastating. Despite this, he displayed great fortitude enduring continued kidney dialysis. He never lost his incisive wit and exacting nature.

He is survived by his two children, and three grandchildren.