Professor C Eaborn, FRS
Colin Eaborn, who died on February 22, 2004 at the age of 80, began his academic career at Leicester, joining the staff of the Chemistry Department in
1947 as an Assistant Lecturer. Obituaries in the national press have rightly emphasised his distinguished research in organosilicon chemistry and his achievements in founding and developing the Chemistry Department at the University of Sussex, but he also had a substantial and lasting influence on the University of Leicester.
In 1947 University College Leicester was affiliated to the University of London and only had about 200 full-time undergraduates. The science departments were small, with few resources for research. Nevertheless, Colin Eaborn embarked on an energetic programme of research; he identified high-quality projects in organosilicon chemistry, an almost entirely unexplored field at that time, which could be undertaken with simple laboratory equipment, and he was highly successful in attracting research funding from industry and from defence agencies in the United States.
As part of its efforts to achieve independent status, the College in 1954 took the imaginative step of creating a few Readerships to raise the research profile. These Readers, of whom Colin Eaborn was
one (he with the title, Reader in Physical Organic Chemistry), were given reduced teaching loads and were ex officio members of Faculty Boards, so that they could devote more time to research and could influence Faculty policy.
Colin Eaborn seized the opportunities offered by his Readership to expand his research group and to stimulate colleagues to pursue research. By the time that the University achieved independence in 1957 he had earned an international reputation, and had very substantially increased the research output of the Chemistry Department. He was also active in Faculty and Senate, displaying excellent judgement and insight; he was almost alone at the time in favouring, and accurately predicting, the substantial growth of the University.
Colin Eaborn was exceptionally generous towards colleagues, sharing his research resources and giving them every encouragement to undertake research in the difficult circumstances prevailing in the 1950s. From the 1960s onwards, Chemistry at Leicester has had an exceptionally high level of research achievement for a department of its size; part of that is due to the improved facilities since 1960 and the sustained quality of new staff appointments since then, but part of the credit also belongs to Colin Eaborn for his major influence on the research ethos of the Chemistry Department in its early, formative
He left the University of Leicester in
1962 when he was appointed to the Chair of Chemistry at the University of
Emeritus Professor Iain M T Davidson