Sir Martin Francis Wood OBE, was a remarkable man, whose work changed the lives of millions.

Born on April 19, 1927 in Great Milton, he died of pneumonia in hospital on November 23 after a fall at home. He was 94.

He was a born entrepreneur, an inventive engineer and had an exceptional capacity for relating to people from all backgrounds in many parts of the world.

With his wife, Audrey, he founded Oxford Instruments, the first important spin-out company from Oxford University, and still one of the most successful.

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Together they established several charities, which make an important contribution to Oxfordshire. Audrey and Martin were married on May 25, 1955 in Whaley Bridge in Derbyshire. They had two children Jonathan (1956) and Patsy (1960-2007) and two children from Audrey’s first marriage Robin Buxton (1950) and Sarah Buxton (1951).

Martin was educated at Gresham’s School, Holt and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read engineering, and Imperial College, London. In 1945 he became a Bevin Boy for his National Service, working underground at the coal face, first in South Wales and later in the Midlands.

From 1955 to 1969, he was a Senior Research Officer in the Clarendon Laboratory at the Physics Department in Oxford. In 1959, he used the experience he acquired there building high-field, copper magnets to found Oxford Instruments.

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Two years later, new superconductors capable of carrying large currents at high fields were developed in the USA. Martin immediately acquired lengths of wire made of these materials and, in 1962, built the first superconducting magnet outside the USA. Oxford Instruments began selling these to universities around the world for scientific research.

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Oxford Instruments continued to develop superconducting magnets for many applications. These included NMR spectroscopy, which is a vital tool in the pharmaceutical industry, and, in around 1980, large magnets for whole-body imaging.

This led to the development of MRI scanners that have become an important, standard diagnostic tool in hospitals throughout the world, helping to save millions of lives every year.

The routine production of magnets for MRI scanners greatly expanded Oxford Instruments and the company went public on the London Stock Exchange in October 1983. The market for MRI scanners was rapidly taken over by a small number of existing medical instrument companies, including GE, Siemens, and Toshiba.

In 1989 Siemens and Oxford Instruments formed a joint venture to expand production in a new building in Eynsham. That factory is still there, producing around a quarter of all the MRI magnets in the world.

The charities Martin and Audrey founded include the Earth Trust, The Oxford Trust, and the Sylva Foundation. Over the past 36 years, The Oxford Trust has played a very important role in supporting the development of hundreds of start-ups in Oxfordshire.

The Earth Trust and Sylva reflected two other of Martin and Audrey’s interests, conservation, and forestry. The Earth Trust promotes nature conservation around Little Wittenham and the Sylva Foundation sustainable forest management.

After Oxford Instruments went public, Martin and Audrey moved to the Manor House at Little Wittenham.

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The varied and lovely garden has large trees that Martin planted, and there is a kitchen garden producing all sorts of fruit and vegetables. Over the past 37 years they helped the Earth Trust to buy the Wittenham Clumps, two farms and water meadows, and for themselves acquired the adjacent farm when it came up for sale a few years ago.

Martin was knighted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 1986. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1987, was a recipient of the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun and received honorary degrees from eight British universities. He was also President of Farm Africa, a development charity co-founded by his late brother Sir Michael Wood.

Martin will be fondly remembered by many people in Oxfordshire and around the world.