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Professor Kenneth F Smith, founding Professor of Experimental Physics
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Unlike many of the founding fathers of Sussex, Ken Smith came from a Cambridge background, having taken his doctorate there under the supervision of Otto Frisch, whom he had first met at Harwell. He went to Harwell soon after the war, having gone in 1944, straight from his first degree (also at Cambridge), to the new Laboratory of Nuclear Studies at Chalk River in Canada. Frisch introduced Ken to atomic beam radiofrequency spectroscopy, and he produced such remarkable results in his thesis (discussed in  more detail elsewhere in this wiki) that he then became effectively the head of the atomic beams group at the Cavendish Laboratory, where he stayed until he brought his group to Sussex in 1962.

As well as building up his research group, Ken was also responsible for advising on the design and construction of what is now called the Pevensey 2 building, making it genuinely a purpose-built physics building. It was the many explicitly physics-related features in this building that enabled me as Head of Department many years later to persuade the senior management that this was really the only building on campus suitable for the reunited Physics and Astronomy Department after the formation of SciTech. It was very appropriate that, at the School event marking the 50th anniversary of Sussex in September 2011, Ken was presented with a bottle of champagne as the only surviving founding professor in the School (see Charles Goldie's report in the MPS Messenger for a photograph).

Sadly, Ken died suddenly on 30 March 2012. A short obituary has appeared online and in the University Bulletin for 20 April 2012. After a private family cremation, a packed thanksgiving service (~120 people) was held at Christ Church, Lewes (where he and his wife were members) on Wednesday 18 April 2012, at which tributes were given by his former colleague Mike Pendlebury and by family and friends.

An obituary by Mike Pendlebury appeared online in The Guardian on 9 May 2012. Unfortunately, significant editing introduced one or two errors; in particular, he was described as the last surviving founder member of the School - but it should have said last surviving founding professor: quite a few other founder members still survive.


Robert Smith