Students Staff

25 April 2018

Remembering Dr John Tilley

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 9:45 am

The people who knew him, share their memories of Dr John Tilley.

Dr John Tilley

Dr John Tilley

John joined the University of Essex in the Autumn of 1965 as a new member of the Department of Physics, one of the University’s founding departments. John was one of our best teachers in the Department of Physics, perhaps the best. Illness, which eventually confined John to a wheelchair, did not impact on his dedication and even made him an early adopter of the ‘state of the art’ technology at the time, namely using transparencies on an overhead projector. John quickly realised that the danger was flashing too many transparencies past the bemused students, and rationed himself to a certain number of slides per lecture and figured out other techniques for keeping the pace down.

John was always generous with his time for students, and many of them had great affection for him. He had an open door policy both to colleagues and students. As well as being an excellent teacher, John provided strong leadership in mentoring and was influential in the construction of degree courses and modules, acting for many years as the undergraduate course director.

John’s biggest academic achievement, alongside one of his colleagues was the book they wrote together on Superfluidity and Superconductivity.  The first edition came out in 1974 and the book is still used, quite likely due to the section John wrote on the Bose-Einstein condensation.  It really is a definitive account, and of course Bose-Einstein condensation is still of current interest.

John did not confine his activities to the Department of Physics but also found time to be a founder of classical musical programmes on campus. Funds were allocated to enable The Gabrieli String Quartet to be engaged and this became the backbone of a series of concerts open to the local community, called The Subscription Concerts. The Subscription Concerts were a series of around ten concerts a year, based around the Gabrieli, but also included many well-known established musicians, such as John Lill, Julian Lloyd Webber, Leon Goossens, Peter Pears and many others.   John, alongside another Physics colleague, became largely responsible for the programmes, the choice of artists and the running of the concerts. Besides the Quartet, musicians included the pianists John Ogden and Vladimir Ashkenazy – this concert was filmed and shown on TV.  By this time the university had purchased a second-hand Steinway Grand Piano to supplement a rather fragile Bosendorfer. On the strength of the Subscription Concerts the University also acquired a musician in residence for two or three years, the composer Gordon Crosse, who greatly helped John and his colleagues, in choosing artists and programmes. Through John’s efforts, popular free lunchtime concerts were also held in what was then the Maths Common Room.

A former Physics student described John as, “warm and kind and quick to laugh. I loved his calm, consistent presence directly across the corridor from my lab. I am truly honoured that both he and Jean became my friends.”

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