Chronology 1970-1979


  • Extracts from College Annual Report 1970/1971. (Word, PDF, ODT)
  • Professor Derek Martin appointed Head of Department.  
    Professor DH Martin
    Derek Martin was educated at the University of Nottingham where he received his BSc and PhD degrees. He joined Queen Mary College as Assistant Lecturer in 1954, became Lecturer in 1958, Reader in 1963, Professor in 1967, and Emeritus Professor on retirement in 1994. He has also been Dean of the Faculty of Science, and a University Senator. He arrived at Queen Mary College committed to a search for a better understanding of the exotic phenomena of superconductivity and of strong magnetism in solids. He decided to seek ways to generate and detect electromagnetic waves in an unexplored part of the spectrum, that between the infrared and microwaves, wavelengths around 1 mm, because he believed that such waves would probe the large-scale collective motions of atoms. Before that could be done there were substantial technical impediments for him to overcome. One of his first steps was to build a miniature refrigerator to reach temperatures within a degree or two of absolute zero and to operate a superconducting detector at this ultra-low temperature in order to be able to detect signals of extremely low strength. This was in 1954, when the Department of Physics was in the east wing of the Queen's Building - he built his apparatus in what is now the splendid office of the Principal. His belief was soon proved to be right and he embarked on the central-path of his scientific work: the development of ever-more subtle techniques for detecting and analysing submillimetre waves and applying them in studies of the structures of matter. This has taken him beyond solid state physics, into astronomy and cosmology, into the remote-sensing of ozone-related stratospheric chemistry from aircraft, high-altitude balloons, and satellites, and into diagnostic studies of energy-generating plasma machines. His work rapidly gained wide recognition and many visitors have come to the College to work with him and to learn the elegant and sensitive measurement techniques he had developed, then to return to pursue such work in their own laboratories in the USA, Japan, Australia, Canada, Italy, Germany, and China. In recognition of the seminal importance of his work in measurement science he was awarded the K. J. Button Prize, also the NPL Metrology Award, and he was Kelvin Lecturer of the Institution of Electrical Engineers. As a member and chairman of the Astronomy Committees of the Science Research Council through the 1970s, he was centrally involved in proposing and procuring large telescopes which covered new ranges of wavelength and which allowed the resurgence of top-class astronomy in the UK through the 1980s and 1990s. In that context also, he initiated the participation of the UK in the first satellite-borne infrared telescope, IRAS, which revealed the rich infrared sky which had hitherto been obscured by the Earth's atmosphere. He was Editor of the prestigious journal Advances in Physics. For 10 years he was Honorary Secretary of the Institute of Physics and shaped it into the influential and vigorous body that it is today and was the leader of the United Kingdom delegation to the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics.


  • Dr Guy Wilson stood as a parliamentary candidate in the Epsom constituency.  
    Guy Wilson parlimentary flier
  • First entry of students to the part-time MSc in Astrophysics


  • Publication of Physical Science for Biologists by Drs John Edgington and Howard Sherman.


  • Extracts from College Annual Report 1972/1973. (Word, PDF, ODT)
  • First intake of undergraduates on UCCA code for Astrophysics.
  • Installation of 12" optical telescope and dome on the Physics Building roof.
  • First preparation of mono-crystalline chain-extended polydiacetylenes exhibiting remarkable optical properties by Dr David Bloor an Mr David Ando.  
    Polydiacetylene crystal photographed in plane polarised light
    Two images of a chain extended polydiacetylene crystal photographed in plane polarised light.
  • Departmental Brochure, (PDF)


  • July - Far-infrared measurements of the upper chromosphere made during total solar eclipse from modified Concorde aircraft by Dr John Beckman.  


  • The first measurements above the atmosphere of the peak of the spectrum of the cosmic microwave background radiation on a balloon borne experiment made by a group led by Drs John Beckman and Peter Clegg.  
    Balloon interferometer
    Flight interferometer with twin detector cones;
    equipment now in the Science Museum, London
    Balloon launch
    Balloon launch.
    Balloon launch souvenir envelope
  • Publication of Green's Functions for Solid State Physicists by Dr Sebastian Doniach, and Professor E.H. Sondheimer [Head of Department of Mathematics, Westfield College].


  • Professor John Bastin appointed Head of Department.  
    Professor JA Bastin,  born 3 January 1929, Physicist and Watercolourist
    1929 -
    Professor J.A. Bastin joined us in 1959 as an Assistant Lecturer, brought here from a research post at Reading by the ever-perspicacious G.O. Jones. Although his previous research had been as an experimental solid state physicist, he was able at Queen Mary to turn his attention and enthusiasm to astrophysics, and the development of a distinguished and vigorous astrophysics group in the department will surely stand as one of his abiding contributions to the College. A dominant theme in John Bastin's research has been his interest in lunar physics, his first paper in this area appearing at the time he was appointed as a Lecturer. The international esteem with which his work was regarded was apparent on his appointment in 1966 as Visiting Fellow at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics in Colorado and on his return in 1967 to a Readership in Astrophysics. Lunar research was, under the stimulus of the NASA Apollo programme, very much in the forefront of solar system astrophysics. John was appointed a Principal Investigator on the US Lunar Samples Programme, and so it was that even before pieces of moon-rock were publicly exhibited at the Science Museum, crowds of eager schoolchildren (and their parents!) queued to see the lunar samples in the Physics building. I think this must have given particular pleasure to John, because he has always sought to engage the interests of young people in astronomy and to share his enthusiasm with them. He saw the opportunity presented by the course-unit structure of the (then) new London BSc degree to introduce from 1972 programmes of study leading to the BSc in Astrophysics or in Astronomy. In 1970 he instigated the part-time MSc in Astrophysics which was from the first successful in recruiting large numbers of schoolteachers and continues to serve an important role in post-experience training. In 1971, John was appointed Professor of Physics, and from 1975-80 he served as Head of Department. The research in sub-millimetre-wave astronomy which he had initiated alongside his work in lunar physics was by then a major strand in the programme of the department, and under his leadership the strength of the department in both its teaching and research was further consolidated. Although the full fury of the cuts which afflicted us in 1981 was still to be unleashed, the storm-clouds were apparent on the horizon; it may have been his experience as a national serviceman in the Royal Navy which enabled him to get us to batten down the hatches and take proper precautions. John's combination of modesty and persistence succeeded in gaining just recognition for excellence and for this I for one am most grateful. When he applied for his first appointment at QMC, John had listed his other interests as Africa (he had for four years after graduating from Oxford taught physics as a lecturer at University College, Ibadan), philosophy, music and painting. These are still his interests, and one of the compensations which his early retirement will give him is additional time to pursue them, especially the last- mentioned, for John is an accomplished water-colourist. His research will continue too: his most recent work in the physics of colour perception in landscape combines so much of the best in John Bastin - his questing mind, his aesthetic sensibility, and his enthusiasm.


  • QMC astrophysicists discover organic molecules in the Large Magellanic Cloud.  
    A team of astrophysicists from Queen Mary College has discovered the organic molecule carbon monoxide in the Large Magellanic Cloud, our nearest neighbour galaxy. The large Magellanic Cloud, which is 180, 000 light years from Earth, is visible only from the southern hemisphere. The team made their observations using the Anglo-Australian telescope at Siding Spring Mountain, New South Wales, which was inaugurated nearly a year ago by Prince Charles. The 3. 9 metre optical telescope together with a special high frequency radio receiver constructed at the College, was operating at a wavelength of 2.6 mm, the lowest energy transition of the CO molecule. In our galaxy giant clouds of carbon monoxide are associated with regions where stars are forming and where radio astronomers have found complex organic molecules possibly capable of generating life. In the Large Magellanic Cloud, the QMC team have found the carbon monoxide close to a region which contains many young stars. Their discovery should enable astronomers to compare the way stars form in the Magellanic Clouds with star formation in our own galaxy.
    The observation of organic molecules provides the first clue to understanding the chemical evolution of our closest neighbour. The QMC team was headed by Dr T.G. Phillips, who was assisted by Dr A.R. Gillespie, Dr P.J. Huggins, with the collaboration in Australia of Dr F. Gardner and Dr S. Knowles, of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. The Anglo-Australian telescope is funded jointly by the British Science Research Council and the Australian Department of Science.

    QMC Bulletin, 38, December 1975


  • December - Robinson Day. A day of talks to honour Professor H.R. Robinson.


  • Publication of Polar Dielectrics and their Applications by Drs Jack Burfoot and George Taylor.