John Michael Ottaway 1939–1986

  • Published on

  • View

  • Download


  • trends in analytical chemistry, vol. 6, no. I,1987 Obituary John Michael Ottaway 1939-I 986 Analytical chemists throughout the world experienced a sense of shock and profound sadness to hear of the sudden and unexpected death of Pro- fessor J.M. Ottaway on 20th October 1986. We have lost an analytical atomic spectroscopist of the highest calibre, a tireless and effective advo- cate of analytical chemistry and an accomplished, warm but debonair man, whom many of us counted as a personal friend. Born in Surrey, England, in the troubled month of August 1939, John obtained a First Class Honours Degree in Chemistry at the Universi- ty of Exeter in 1961. Here Professor Bishop introduced the young Otta- way to analytical chemistry as a problem solving discipline; it was a lesson he never forgot. Despite pressure and counter attractions, he opted to study for a PhD in kinetic methods of analysis under Professor Bishop, which was awarded in 1965. Meanwhile the University of Exeter was expanding and John was ap- pointed an Assistant Lecturer in Chemistry in 1963, leaving the post in 1966 to take up the position of Lec- turer in Analytical Chemistry at the University of Strathclyde in Glas- gow. Although it is difficult to imag- ine two new universities with greater contrast, John quickly adapted to his new environment. He established at Strathclyde an international centre of excellence in analytical chemistry through his own research and teach- ing and the inspiration of others. A steady stream of about 200 papers were to appear in analytical kinetics and atomic spectrometry from his group, which became one of the larg- est analytical research groups in the world, and a lively MSc course in an- alytical chemistry was established. In the late 1960s atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS) was a ânew tech- niqueâ. John quickly realised its po- tential and began research into fun- damental aspects of interference and atom formation as applied to real samples. At first this work concerned flames, but immediately graphite furnace AAS arrived John saw the potential for electrothermal atomisa- tion (ETA). It was in this area, atom- isation studies in both ETA-AAS and the technique he largely pi- oneered ETA-AES (atomic emis- sion spectrometry), that he achieved considerable international recogni- tion. Perhaps his greatest scientific contribution was to re-enervate the problem approach to analytical chemistry and to inspire a new gener- ation of analytical chemists, both his own students and others. In an age of specialisation he resisted the pressures which led some to research in fundamental processes to the ex- clusion of applications, or instrumen- tation to the exclusion of method de- velopment, or analysis to the exclu- sion of innovation. His group showed that a balanced approach, emphasis- ing equally theory, fundamentals, in- strument design, method devel- opment , application and validation was still the best. This resulted in col- laboration with many other scien- tists, from metallurgists to clinical biochemists, both at home and over- seas. Analytical approaches devel- oped in his research laboratories are in use today all over the world. As all this implies, John was a keen evangelist for this approach to ana- lytical chemistry and he was a popu- lar and much sought-after lecturer at U.K. and international meetings. His pleasant and open personality, consistent good humour and concern for others won him friends all over the world. His enthusiasm for his subject made him unselfish in his rec- ognition of the contributions of oth- ers and his lively mind meant that he quickly recognised the potential of
  • trends inhnalytical chemistry, vol. 6, no. 1,1987 new developments. For example, his laboratory was amongst the first to exploit furnace atomic non-thermal excitation spectrometry (FANES) and continuum source AAS. Natu- rally for such a gregarious and con- cerned man, John was an active member of several professional so- cieties and organisations. In partic- ular he will be remembered for his contributions to the Analytical Divi- sion of the Royal Society of Chemis- try of which he was, Vice-President. A tireless worker for many years in the Scottish Region of the Analytical Division, his efforts to promote ana- lytical meetings in Scotland were perhaps crowned by the highly suc- cessful SAC83 International Confer- ence in Edinburgh in 1983, in which he played such a key role. Although he served on many other commit- tees, his other great achievements probably came through his time as Chairman of the Analytical Editorial Board. This is responsible for the RSCâs primary analytical journals: The Analyst, Analytical Proceed- ings, and in the last year the new Journal of Analytical Atomic Spec- trometry. Indeed but for his enthu- siasm the journal he loved to call JAAS (or jazz) would never have come to be. His guidance has en- sured a highly successful first year and JAAS now will surely thrive and become a lasting tribute to his energy and foresight in combining the estab- lished Annual Reports on Analytical Atomic Spectroscopy review materi- al with primary papers. Promoted to a personal chair at the University of Strathclyde in 1982, in recognition of his many achieve- ments, he was further advanced to Chairman of the Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry in 1985. The wider community also honoured him: he was awarded the Silver Med- al of the Society for Analytical Chemistry in 1975, elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1982 and in 1983 he received both the RSC Analytical Spectroscopy Award and the Talanta Lewis Gordon Me- morial Award. When he was awarded the Society for Analytical Chemistry Gold Medal in 1984 he be- / v came only the second analytical chemist to receive both the gold and silver medals of the SAC. Tragically, the only previous double recipient was the late Professor Gordon Krik- bright, whose untimely death com- pletes a sad and arresting parallel. The loss of John Ottaway has stunned us all. To those who knew only of his work, here was a brilliant scientist taken in his prime. To those of us who knew him personally, we have lost a friend and counsellor. To his loving wife Barbara, with whom he had a real and valuable part- nership, and other members of his family, we offer our profound sym- pathy. We shall all miss John Otta- way, carefree yet caring, brilliant yet an encouraging friend, thorough in all he did yet a debonair British gent- leman. LES EBDON Professor Ebdon is at the Plymouth Poly- technic Faculty of Science, Department of Environmental Sciences, Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon PL4 8AA, U.K. feature On-site acceptance of process analytical instru- mentation interfacing between technical disciplines. Part I: the problem Peter Reeves St. Peters Port, Guernsey, U.K. Part I of this article considers the present status of process anaiyt- icai instrumentation, drawing on practical situations from the authorâs experience. Reasons for the poor to mediocre results achieved thus far in the oil, petrochemical and chemical industries are examined. in Part ii, the author puts forward some proposals that will help those in the process industries now introducing the instrumentation to avoid the pitfalls of the past. Introduction kept in step with new developments, Acceptance of process analytical which has lead to a widening technol- instrumentation technology has not ogy gap. This is largely because for * The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily re- flect the views of Instrumentation Analytical International Ltd. to which he is affil- iated. 01659936/87/$03.00. many years demands on plant effi- ciency have not required the full po- tential available with modern instru- mentation and control technology. Now it is becoming more widely un- derstood how important process analysers are to product quality, product yield, and process control. Because little importance has been given to.the training of engineers and technicians in this area, practical ca- pability and achievement has been poor. Practical achievement de- mands an understanding of the roles of the different technical disciplines on a site and the need for solving in- terfacing problems between site de- partmental technical functions. Education and training Several industries are thinking of introducing on-line process analy- sers, so it is useful to identify the problem areas that have led to their lack of acceptance. These problem areas are a result of (a) the misunder- @ Elsevier Science Publishers B .V.