Obituary: Professor Nicholas Kemmer

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The Independent Culture
I HOPE that Tam Dalyell won't be offended if I correct a few factual errors in his obituary [24 October] of my late husband, writes Margaret Kemmer.

Nick was, in fact, christened in the Russian Orthodox Church. Also his father was sent to London, not Germany, in 1916 to buy rolling stock for Russia before the Revolution. They lived in and around London for six years, where Nick learnt his excellent English from a governess and as a pupil at Orlando Wagner's prep school. I have a photo of Nick's class with Anthony Wagner beside him. The family moved to Hanover when he was 10 and then he had to learn German, his third language.

He did not miss the Blitz - he was on Firewatch Duty - and left for Montreal to be Press Officer; he never went to Chalk River and never worked on the Bomb.

Our family are also proud of his receiving the Hughes Medal of the Royal Society, the Oppenheimer Medal from the US and especially the Max Planck Medal from Germany.

On a lighter note, I am not aware of Nick going on any pub crawls, let alone with Klaus Fuchs, who was something of a loner.

May I add a few points to your obituary of this remarkable and most agreeable of men? writes Sir Hermann Bondi.

His early schooling in this country (to which no doubt he owed his superb English) followed by school and university in Germany led up to his time in Zurich and at Imperial College, arguably the scientifically most creative period of his life. This was followed by his pioneering work on nuclear power generation, first in Cambridge, but mainly in Montreal (not in Chalk River).

His return to Cambridge in 1946 (when he and I first met) initiated his long career, continued in Edinburgh, as a teacher of exceptional dedication and effectiveness. His former students, many in high positions, always regarded their time with him as pivotal in their own lives.