Professor Paul O'Brien
Professor of Inorganic Materials and Head of School of Materials, University of Manchester
Paul O’Brien, who was Chemistry Subject Editor for Proceedings of the Royal Society A and a Professor of Inorganic Materials at Manchester University, sadly died on the 16th October, aged 64. Paul, who is survived by his wife Kym, was a friend and colleague who will be greatly missed by the Fellowship and staff of the Royal Society and by the Chemistry and Materials scientific community.
Paul was born in Oldham, Lancashire and studied chemistry at Liverpool University before moving to Cardiff where he obtained his doctorate. He was appointed a lecturer in Chelsea College, London in 1978; he later moved to Queen Mary, London and was subsequently appointed Professor of Materials Science at Imperial College. In 1999, he moved to Manchester, where he was head successively of both the chemistry and materials departments.
Paul’s science was in the field of inorganic and materials chemistry, where his creativity as an experimental scientist led to wide ranging contributions, perhaps most significantly in the use of inorganic precursors in synthesising quantum dots with extensive applications in electronics, display and solar energy devices and in nano-medicine. His scientific output was prolific, with over 700 publications which were heavily cited. Moreover, Paul combined his scientific skills with entrepreneurial flair and established a highly successful spin-out company, Nanoco Technologies, which commercialized his work on quantum dot synthesis.
In addition to his extensive scientific contributions, Paul worked tirelessly for the scientific community. As well as leading two major science departments in Manchester, he served on the Council of the Royal Society of Chemistry and, after his election to the Fellowship, both the SIT committee of the Royal Society and the Editorial Board of Proceedings A. But perhaps most notably, he was an enthusiastic and committed supporter of and contributor to the Society’s Africa programmes. He was UK lead coordinator of one of the first Royal Society—NRF capacity building programmes in South Africa, involving a long running collaboration with the University of KwaZulu-Natal and was a project leader in subsequent programmes in Ghana and Tanzania. His work in Africa has had lasting impact by training early career scientists and establishing successful and self-sustaining research centres.
Paul was a natural enthusiast and will be remembered with great affection for his humour and friendship. He leaves a legacy of achievement and of wide ranging and lasting contributions to science and to the scientific community.
First published 09 January 2019 https://doi.org/10.1098/rspa.2018.0832
Prepared by Professor Richard Catlow FRSC FINSTP FLSW FRS