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Professor Eric Whittle


Professor Eric Whittle, formerly of the Chemistry Department from 1954 to 1987, passed away on 19 October 2014 aged 87.

Eric was born in Manchester, attended Urmston Grammar School and continued his education at Manchester University gaining both his degree iin Chemistry and PhD in gas kinetics.

This introduced him to the then novel compounds which are now called CFC's ie chloroflourocompounds, which were important in his future research work.

In September 1951 in one hectic week, he received his PhD, married Pat and spent his honeymoon in a westerly gale on a passenger liner on the Atlantic on his way to Ottawa, Canada . There he took up a post-doctoral research fellowship awarded by the National Research Council.

This was followed by a post-doc toral fellowship at the University of California at Berkeley, working with George Pimentel, a high flyer with an almost infinite variety of talents. This was a fantastic experience as there was an incredible concentration of talent in the chemistry and physics departments at that time, with six Nobel prize winners working there.

He took up the post of lecturer at University College Cardiff in 1954 and had a successful academic career progressing to Senior Lecturer, Reader and finally appointed a Personal Chair in 1973. In 1968 he had a sabbatical year at the University California , Riverside which at the time was the “smog capital of the world”.

Much of his work at Cardiff involved the photochemistry and thermochemcistry of CFC's. Some of this was relevant to the involvement of ozone and CFC's in the stratosphere.

As well as undertaking his own research, he supervised several PhD students, and the family were touched by their kind messages when they heard of his death and that six of them came to funeral, some of them travelling half way across the country. He was committed in his role as supervisor and pushed all his students to be ambitious, resulting in many of having very successful careers. He was also a much sought after External Examiner not only in UK, but internationally.

He applied himself with equal thouroughness to his other university responsibilites of teaching undergraduates and sat on numerous committees, including Senate.

He will be remembered enthusiasm and commitment and, combined with his lively sense of humour, Eric was popular not only with colleagues in the Chemistry Department, but throughout the University.

Eric played both cricket and soccer for the University and later took up squash which he'd been introduced to in California. He played weekly against the Head of Sports! He was a key member of the committee involved in the construction of the Cardiff University squash courts. In his early forties he took up dingy sailing and later got a bigger boat for cruising. After retirement, he and Pat took the boat to the Mediterranean by sailing through the rivers and canals of France and keeping the boat in the south of France. For 8 years, they flew out and spent long summers sailing around the Mediterranean.

Eric was also a very practical man and keen on DIY. He was often seen with various technicians throughout the university, not in deep discussions about chemistry, but talking about how to fix a tool or issues relating to his latest project. He was a particularly good carpenter and those who visited his home in Cardiff Road, Dinas Powys would have seen evidence of his skills in every room.

Eric suffered with Alzheimers towards the end of his life, and passed away in his sleep. He is sadly missed by his wife Pat, children Anne, Paul and Louise and three grand-daughters, and remembered by everyone who knew him with deep affection.

Louise Whittle & Anne Barrett