Dr Ken Cranstoun

Dr George Kennedy Lyon (Ken) Cranstoun

ken cranstoun

5th March 1933 – 1st March 2021

It is with sadness that we record the death of Dr. Ken Cranstoun, who was a Senior Research Fellow and then University Lecturer in the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory from 1963 until the mid 1980s.

Ken obtained his Bachelor’s and Doctoral degrees in Chemistry at the University of Glasgow, where he worked on surface chemistry and catalysis, under the supervision of Dr. Sam Thomson. He completed a doctoral thesis, entitled “The Isotope Effect in the Displacement of Tritium and Hydrogen from a Nickel Surface”, in 1962. He then worked briefly at the Esso Research Centre in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, before joining (then newly-arrived) Professor J.S. Anderson in the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory. His remit was to set up from scratch a facility for field ion microscopy, with the objective of studying fundamental surface chemical processes at the atomic level.

Ken was a consummately-skilled experimental scientist, as well as being the most kind, patient and supportive person imaginable – a truly “gentle man”. He was held in great affection and respect by his colleagues, friends and students. It was said of him that “the traffic was largely inbound”, meaning that colleagues predominantly came to seek his assistance, rather than vice versa. No one who came to him for help or advice ever went away empty handed. He set himself very high scholarly standards, and published sparingly, rarely satisfied until he had every last detail of the research in place.

Following the retirement of Anderson in 1975, activity in field ion microscopy waned in the ICL, although it became a major focus of interest the Department of Materials, which became a recognised world-leading centre in the field. The group in the Department of Materials, led by George Smith, retained a strong link with the ICL. George had completed his doctoral research on field ion microscopy within Anderson’s group, and Ken had been his guide and mentor throughout. They continued to collaborate in research for a number of years. Ken also remained research active in the ICL and drawing on his expertise in surface science, he played an important part in securing funding for a multi-technique ultrahigh vacuum ESCALAB electron spectrometer in the early 1980s. In parallel, he took on an increasing load of administrative and practical teaching duties within the Department, including running a glassblowing course for Part II and graduate students for many years (a role that relied heavily upon his outstanding abilities in this area). He also took on the role of Senior Tutor at Wolfson College over an extended period between 1976 and 1989, and this became a full-time job toward the end of his career. Once again, he showed his kind and supportive nature, providing help to many graduate students when they most needed it.

He retired from Wolfson in 1989. He is sorely missed by all who knew him.

By George Smith FRS and Russell Egdell