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Professor David R Williams OBE, BSc, PhD, DSc, FRSC, FRSA (1940-2013)

Professor David R Williams OBE, BSc, PhD, DSc, FRSC, FRSA

We are sad to have to report that emeritus Professor David R Williams OBE, BSc, PhD, DSc, FRSC, FRSA passed away on 20 March as the result of a stroke. Professor David Taylor writes, David Raymond Williams spent his boyhood in Wrexham, where he attended Grove Park School for Boys before proceeding to University College Bangor from where he graduated with first class honours in Chemistry and went on to gain his PhD. He held a post-doctoral appointment in Sweden, before becoming a Lecturer at the University of St Andrews, from where he was awarded his DSc; during this period he developed his interests in chemical speciation. In 1977 he was appointed Professor and Head of the Department of Applied Chemistry at the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology (UWIST). Professor Williams recalled that he arrived in Cardiff on the day Elvis (Presley) died and the capital suffered its deepest floods for many decades, events which were perhaps to portend that his own time in Cardiff would not be uneventful, including the eventual merger of the chemistry departments of UWIST and University College Cardiff to form the School of Chemistry of Cardiff University. He continued his interests in chemical speciation in Cardiff, especially the development of computer simulation to predict the species most likely to be present in biochemical and environmental systems. This research soon established a sound international reputation for the group and its leader, with collaborators across the world, including Australia, South Africa and Germany, and its work was recognised by several prestigious awards and by frequent invitations to present keynote addresses at conferences. David Williams enjoyed public speaking and developed his own inimitable style which ensured that his talks were always thought-provoking and often humorous.  

Professor Williams’ broad and international interests in science led to his appointment as chairman of the British Council Science Committee and for several years he enjoyed travelling the world doing valuable work promoting science at all levels. His research in chemical speciation led to his appointment to government committees in London, Cardiff Bay and Brussels. To their work he brought not just his expertise but his boundless enthusiasm and commitment; qualities which were recognised by the award of the OBE.  He also devoted much time to the work of the Royal Society of Chemistry, both to the local SE Wales Section and nationally, serving on several boards and committees.  After his retirement emeritus Professor Williams continued to serve the University as Chief Marshal, officiating at numerous degree ceremonies, an activity which he enjoyed, not just for the opportunity to meet distinguished visitors, but especially that of meeting the new graduates and their families and contributing to their very special day. Alongside his busy professional life David Williams was a devoted family man and was always ready to help people in his local church and village communities. He is survived by his wife Gillian, also a Bangor chemistry graduate, and their daughters Caroline and Kerstin together with three grandchildren of whom he was very proud; we offer to them all our deepest sympathy in their sad and untimely loss.