Mervyn Paterson


From:  Ernie Rutter, Manchester University, UK.

It was sad to learn of Mervyn’s death on 4 June this year, and my thoughts go out to his family. He was a true giant of our science and a wonderful man, and I feel privileged to have known him. I was able to spend a lot of time with him when he was an academic visitor for a year during 1972 at Imperial College, when I was a just-starting junior academic. One of the main things I learnt from him was never to jump to conclusions, and to analyse a problem carefully before committing to a point of view, i.e. never open your mouth before your brain is in gear. He was a master of careful and logical explanation of a problem, and there have been several instances over the years where he had listened quietly  to a discussion, then gone away, thought it through, and published a brilliant analysis.

      After moving to Manchester, in 1990 we were able to buy the first commercial Paterson gas-medium testing machine. The two leftmost photos show it being delivered into the building basement (where these things tend to live) and, after steering through corridors and dismantled doorframes, it finally came to rest in the lab. These brilliant machines have made a major impact on the kinds of research that could be carried out in several labs around the world.

    Mervyn was renowned for his taste for the finer things in life, especially wines. The third picture shows him enjoying a glass with John Ramsay at a conference in Zurich in 2006. However he was not immune from a little overindulgence. I recall a conference in France in 1980, on the flanks of Mt Blanc, where in the bar he spent most of the evening sitting supping wine and talking to various people, whilst some of the younger participants were playing table football watched, out of the corner of his eye, by Mervyn. When most people had drifted away he stood up, slightly unsteadily, and announced that he would like to play table football, which he enjoyed immensely, and especially when he scored a goal. At this point he flung his arms into air in triumphant gesture, lost his balance and staggered backwards across the room and crashed into the drinks table, sending empty glasses and bottles crashing everywhere, with Mervyn on the ground, arms and legs in the air, from where he was gently escorted to his room.

Happy memories of a wonderful person.


Ernie Rutter

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