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G. A. Jeffrey - a note

Dr Carrondo's excellent obituary of George, or 'Jeff' as we used to call him (Newsletter 8-2 p.27) does not mention his early career in any detail and I thought that this might be of interest to younger Crystallographers.

I first met Jeff when I started as a research student under E.G. Cox (later Sir Gordon) in 1942. I had migrated from Industry under a Scholarship awarded by the British Rubber Producers Research Association (BRPRA). Jeff was a member of their staff who worked under Cox both on Rubber and on explosives for the Ministry of Supply at Birmingham.

Jeff was working on the structure of Geranylamine Hydrochloride and acted as my mentor in work on Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate. As a physicist and engineer I was particularly interested in improving computational methods which were, at that time, very primitive. Jeff entered with enthusiasm into my improvements and we made an excellent team. In 1944 we both migrated to the BRPRA labs in Welwin Garden City where we shared an office. With the encouragement of Johnny Wilson the Director I was encouraged to develop digital computers whilst Jeff concentrated on chemical matters. A major joint effort was to use IBM punched card equipment to speed up Fourier Analysis and Synthesis in which we used the services provided by L. J Comrie.

We both wished for academic appointments and encouraged each other by, for example, suspending toy Chairs over each others desks. When work proceeded well the Chairs were lowered but a slack period caused a rise to the ceiling. After Jeff and Maureen married and produced their daughter Susan I was able to help them to have fun by minding the baby in the office, I remember constructing a cot rocker from a pair of retort stands and a stirrer motor.

Jeff was appointed to a teaching post in Gordon Cox's department at Leeds University and I moved to a Fellowship at Birkbeck College, London. At Leeds, Jeff was largely responsible for one of the first Crystallographic computing units in England: The Ferranti Pegasus machine. This was nicknamed Lucifer and was housed in a disused Chapel.

Shortly afterwards Jeff moved to Pittsburgh and later I accepted a post in Canada. My last face to face meeting with Jeff was at Susan's wedding. I was shocked to hear of his last illness and death. A dreadful end to a splendid person, a fine scientist and a good friend.

Donald Booth
1 December 2008