Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting OXFORD NEWS to 80360 or email us
Former academic helped make particle physics a force in the world of science
5:00pm Thursday 22nd August 2013 in News
THE former director of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and Master of St Cross College has died aged 93.
Dr Godfrey Stafford helped transform particle physics in Europe from its early days in modest university facilities to huge national and international laboratories.
He first came to Harwell in 1954 and helped develop Rutherford Laboratory’s Nimrod programme.
Dr Stafford was appointed director in 1969, beginning the most challenging, most creative phase of his career.
It had just been decided to shut down Nimrod prematurely, which would have led to the complete closure of the laboratory.
His first job was to get that decision reversed, and he achieved this in meetings of the Nuclear Physics Board in which he convinced members that the closure was scientifically illogical.
He then set to work to establish on-site science and technology activities to give the laboratory a long-term future.
His influence continued long after his retirement in 1987, and even in his final years he had valuable advice for those planning the next energy-frontier machine, the International Linear Collider.
Godfrey Stafford was born in England on April 15, 1920 but moved to Cape Town in South Africa aged eight, where he attended Rondebosch Boys High School and the University of Cape Town, under Prof RW James, one of the fathers of X-ray crystallography.
He completed his MSc in cosmic ray physics in 1941, but was then caught up in the Second World War.
Dr Stafford was initially with the South African Navy degaussing ships based at Robben Island, but was seconded to the Royal Navy in 1942, where he worked on the development of radar, initially at the Admiralty Research Establishment near Haslemere, Surrey.
During the D-Day landings, British ships were grouped closely together in the Mulberry Harbours. They were all equipped with defensive radar to detect incoming aircraft dropping mines at night but due to inaccurate calibration this system failed. Dr Stafford was sent on a fast boat, with a suitcase of electronics, to visit each ship in turn and retune their radar systems.
In the process, one of the ships – HMS Scylla – was hit, but fortunately Dr Stafford escaped injury and was able to complete his work.
After the war, Dr Stafford did his PhD at Cambridge and spent time at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment, in Harwell, under Sir Basil Schonland.
In 1950 he returned to South Africa but in 1954 accepted an offer from Gerry Pickavance to join his Cyclotron Group at Harwell.
The Rutherford High Energy Laboratory was formed in 1957, with Dr Stafford head of the proton linear accelerator group.
In 1979 he was appointed Master of St Cross College in Oxford and resigned from his position at Harwell to focus on the role full-time in 1981.
He took on a number of important initiatives for the development of the college, not least to move from a wooden hut in Holywell to permanent accommodation in St Giles, and to greatly increase the number of graduate students.
Dr Stafford was made a CBE in 1976 for services to science and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1979.
He married Helen Goldthorp Clark in 1950 and lived first in Abingdon and then in North Hinksey. She died in 2003.
Godfrey Stafford died on July 29 and is survived by his son Toby, 62, and twin daughters Anne and Liz, 60, as well as five grandchildren.
His funeral took place at Oxford Crematorium on Friday, August 16.
Comments are closed on this article.