The Crystallographic Community

Ted Maslen

Ted Maslen died on Sunday 3rd Feb. 1997 . He collapsed and died during a "fun" run. The following eulogy, dedicated to Ted Maslen was read by Syd Hall at Ted's funeral service on Thursday 6th Feb. at St Piux X Church, WA. The author wishes it to be known that the text is the transcript of a rather hurriedly written speech given at a church service at a very emotional time.

It is a very great privilege and honour for me to give the eulogy of my dear friend and colleague Ted Maslen. It is an occasion above all to pay tribute to the rich and full life of this incredible man. Ted made so many contributions to so many walks of life, on such a daunting scale, that doing justice to it in this short time is impossible. He was after all, truly "a man for all Seasons".

I realised yesterday when jotting down my own memories of the past thirty seven years that my only hope was to highlight some of his greatest achievements and provide some small insights into what I hope will bring back memories of what a wonderful person Ted was.

First a brief history to Ted's beginnings.

He was born to Bill and Vicky Maslen on the 8th of August 1935 in Kalgoorlie. He has an elder brother Victor and a younger sister Sue, who are now also physicists. Ted was educated at Saint Patrick's College after the Maslen family moved to Geraldton in 1947. Mrs Maslen used to say of Ted's boyhood "he always got into things, and you didn't know what he'd be up to next!" This reflected, even then, the inquiring mind and enormous energy that was to be his signature in later life. In 1951 he won a General Exhibition and went to the University of Western Australia and St Georges College to do a Science degree. Ted was an outstanding student and in his first year won the Geology Prize. He was also involved in student affairs and was elected as President of the Guild of Undergraduates in 1956, several years after another undergraduate named Bob Hawke held the same position.

1956 was a truly momentous year for Ted in many respects. It was his final undergraduate year at UWA, he was President of the Guild and he was also very active in a student appeal to raise money for a medical school. In fact he competed in an athletics meeting to raise funds for the school, and accidentally spiked himself. This led to tetanus which was then, and is now, an extremely serious and often fatal disease. This was front page news for several days and even today many people know Ted as "the student for whom traffic was diverted to keep his Royal Perth hospital ward quiet". Ted of course survived this ordeal and some believe that it stamped the mark of courage on him for the rest of his life. This episode also provided a very positive spinoff. The publicity was largely responsible for a great deal of money being donated to the medical school and there is a marvellous photograph of a young beaming Ted Maslen sitting up in a hospital bed handing over a cheque of 10,000 pounds to the fund raisers.

Incredibly, while all of this was going on, Ted was a candidate for the Rhodes Scholarship, the announcement of which was withheld until he had recovered. He was awarded this scholarship and went to Oxford university and St Johns College for the next three years. During this time he completed his D. Phil. studying molecular structure by diffraction techniques under the supervision of Dorothy Hodgkin. This was truly pioneering work in the field and it was the foundation for his life-long interest in crystallography. Some years later Prof Hodgkin won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for some of the research that she collaborated with Ted on.

But Ted wasn't studying all the time; he kept up his athletics and rowing interests and rowed for his college and the Oxford ISIS crew, for which he gained a half blue. He also became part of the Oxford university sporting history for his famous run from Oxford to London....some 60 odd miles! Much more importantly he met a young Oxfordtonian named Sheila Robinson. Ted and Sheila were married in 1960 just before returning to Perth where Ted took up a Lectureship in the Physics Dept of the University of Western Australia.

This is when I first met Ted. I was doing Honours in the Physics Dept and this young star arrived back from Oxford full of vigour and new ideas. He immediately attracted a number of postgraduate students into his crystallography research group and, as I remember it, turned a then conservative department on its ear. I joined his group about a year later. One of my most striking first memories of Ted was his genuine concern for his students. Somehow, one felt that Ted's attention was focused solely on you....a remarkable skill that he always retained, and one that students not dedicated to their studies sometimes found quite disconcerting, because Ted always expected of his students, and demanded of himself, the highest possible academic standards. His energy, vision and concern as a teacher were the reasons why postgraduates flocked to his group and he has over the years supervised an unparalleled number of higher degrees. Many of his graduates now hold high office in business and academia in Australia and overseas, and some are with us today. One should appreciate that at the same time time Ted was also doing his own crystallographic research, and pioneered much of the early neutron diffraction work at the Lucas Heights reactor, and the use of SILLIAC, the first computer in Australia.

I will acknowledge Ted's greatest academic achievements a little later. Ted's life was much much more than just science. He was a very private person who made certain that the demands of his career did not interfere with his family life. He was a very caring and dedicated husband and father, and church and community activities played a major role in his life. It always amazed his colleagues that Ted would follow a long and demanding day at the University with an hour long run, he would then hop on his bike and cycle back to Manning for dinner with his family ... and then perhaps attend a South Perth City council meeting or two in the evening. This was his regular regime. And while Ted rarely talked about his private life, those who knew him well understood how incredibly proud he was of his family, and just how important they were to everything he did.

This brings me to another of Ted's great loves...SPORT. He excelled at athletics, running and rowing, and participated in these sports at a competitive level all of his life. He was a member of the WA Kings Cup crew in 1965, and Secretary of the WA Amateur Rowing Association for several years. He was a member of number of athletic and running clubs and a Life Member of the University Athletic Club. He was dedicated to these sports as a competitor and as an administrator and won a list of prizes and awards far too numerous to cite here. He particularly loved running and athletics because it was an interest shared by Sheila and the rest of his family.

Ted's exploits on the running track and sporting field are legendary...not only for their excellence but because of his sheer enthusiasm and determination to compete. As with everything that Ted did, he gave 100%. Certainly, to all who knew this part of his life, his barefooted running exploits on hot asphalt roads are, and will remain, a legend.

Ted loved almost every sport quite independently of how good he was at them. One only had to mention a football game, squash match or golf round and he would be in it. He did confide in me once that he hated swimming because he felt that he was always sinking ... certainly there was not fat there for extra buoyancy. He particularly liked cricket ...especially if he could be wicketkeeper....which he was very good at but he tended to keep wicket with such vigour that he regularly dislocated his shoulder. Something that concerned the rest of the team much more than it did Ted!

One of the many tributes that has arrived in my office over the past couple of days was from Peter Murray-Rust in Nottingham. Peter played football against Ted in his Oxford years. Apparently Ted's shoulder dislocated during one such match and he quietly asked Peter if he would mind pulling on the arm to get it back into the socket. Peter said that after that Ted played on but his own concentration never quite recovered and Ted's team won easily. This is the stuff that great stories are made of, and there are many of them.

Another enduring memory I will always have of Ted are at the annual Physics Golf days. His once a year duel with the long stick and the small ball terrified the local wildlife at the Wembly Downs golf course and no doubt it kept the ground staff busy for several weeks thereafter. He would always turn up at the barbecue afterwards and often receive the highest score trophy with a twinkle in his eye and that marvellous chuckle of his. "Next year I will do better" he would say.

Frequently a gallant victor, ....Ted was also a very gracious when he was not.

I must say however that Ted's interest in sport also had a slight downside. For instance he liked those around him to also be fit, and had half the Physics Dept doing long distance running at one stage...and the other half frantically searching for excuses! In fact his reputation for this travelled abroad because of one particular incident. In the mid seventies Bob Stewart came from Pittsburgh to work with Ted for 6 months. Bob was very unfit and more than slightly overweight. He started running with Ted...only a short distance to start with and then slowly he built it up to a few kilometers a day. When Bob returned to the US he had lost over 15 kilos and was almost such an extent that his US colleagues believed that Bob was suffering from a terminal illness. When they heard what had happened, the reputation of Ted as "the iron man of crystallography" started to take shape. For some reason only the fittest of US colleagues seemed to visit us after that!

One small insight into Ted's life which is not that well known, is his love of Australian ballads and Irish music. On the right occasion would he would often launch into song...and he had an excellent voice. He certainly put most of us to shame with his musical ability and his memory for lyrics. I will always remember the occasions when he was in great voice, such as on the 1987 steam train ride to York with the Mucky Duck Bush band ....or the closing party of the 1992 Singapore crystallographic meeting. On these occasions, even long time acquaintances were quite staggered by his talent and energy.

Ted is known in the community for his concern about local matters. His longstanding and dedicated service to the South Perth City council was part of his life. Three times elected councillor and 22 years service overall. Any one of us could stand proud on this record alone! As long as I can remember, Ted was involved in community issues of importance. He believed strongly that solutions to problems lay in better information, planning and action. He often stunned authorities by his knowledge in their area of expertise, and with detailed research he would more often than not be successful. In such actions, he was a dependable ally and a very formidable opponent; always fair, always direct but usually quite uncompromising on getting at the truth. Over the years he was also closely involved with the Rhodes Scholarship Committee, the Cancer Council, the Radiological Council, the CSIRO State Committee, and more.

I return finally to the pinnacles of Ted's scientific career. In the maturity of his career he was recognised internationally as an outstanding scientist and an authority in the precise study of electrons in crystal structure. Ted has published 175 scientific papers in major international journals and has been awarded numerous competitive research grants over the years, and held three at the time of his death. Last year he was given Australia's highest scientific accolade, to be made a Fellow of the Australian Academy, a title held by only a few scientists in the state. He has been elected to every distinguished professional post in this country and to those in international societies. He was on the Executive of the International Union for Crystallography from 1984 to 1990. He was Director of the international committee for electronic publishing and was driving forces in the electronification of scientific journals. He has contributed enormously to many international commissions and committees.

At the University he was responsible for the formation of the Crystallography Centre in 1971 and was its Director until he became Head of the Physics Dept in 1993. He almost single handedly brought about the purchase of the first computer at the University and the state in 1962. He had served on almost ever university body, and his overall contribution to the teaching, research and administration at this institution over the past 37 years is beyond value. In an institution where people go to seek wisdom, Ted's boundless reserve of this quality, his outstanding leadership, his great vision, his understanding and his energy will be very sorely missed. His early and premature departure leaves an enormous gap in our efforts and our lives.

Well, Ted my friend, you must forgive me for not being able to do justice in this short time to the true extent of your achievements but I think that this would have been a challenge EVEN for you. However, the strength of your intellect, your kindness and concern, your courage and honesty is on record for all to see.

But what of Ted "the inner person". There are many sentiments that I would like to express here, but my feelings on this are best captured in an observation I received from an overseas colleague yesterday. And I quote "Even when I first met Ted he had a quiet air of solidarity, maturity, humble assurance. Within minutes you knew that this someone you could trust."

Ted, your life and works has always been, and always will be, a marvellous example to us all.

Sydney R. Hall