Obituary: Professor Robert Hill

THE WORLD of alternative energy has lost one of its leading exponents with the sudden death of Robert Hill. His expertise on solar energy and photovoltaic technologies was recognised world-wide.

Hill chaired the British Photovoltaics Association from 1994 to 1995 and was chairman for this millennium year, and was a member of the Solar Energy Advisory Committee and the Technology Foresight Energy Committee, providing policy advice to the Government. He led the 12th European Photovoltaic Conference in 1994 and was involved in subsequent conferences including the preparation for next year's conference in Glasgow.

Last year Hill was a founding member of the inter-disciplinary Sustainable Cities Research Institute at the University of Northumbria, and Director of Renew North (the board for the Renewable Energy Agency for the North East), reflecting his long-held views on the need for a holistic approach to sustainable development.

Hill was born and brought up outside Leeds. He took a first degree in Physics at Imperial College, London, and then stayed to pursue a doctorate in Solid State Physics. In the mid- 1960s, he joined the research staff at Sellafield, then Windscale, where he focused on nuclear safety before moving briefly to Newcastle University. He joined Newcastle Polytechnic, now the University of Northumbria at Newcastle (UNN), in 1971, as Lecturer in the Department of Physics and Physical Electronics.

In 1984 he became Professor of Opto-Electronics, and in the same year established, and became director of, the Newcastle Photovoltaics Applications Centre, a post which he continued to hold until his retirement in 1998. His personal academic output was large and influential, authoring and editing 12 books, including The Future of Energy (1994) and Prospects for Photovoltaics: commercialisation, mass production and application for development (1992), seven conference proceedings, some 200 papers in refereed journals and major conferences and over 100 commercial reports.

His early work at UNN focused on thin-film solar cells for terrestrial use, exploring high-efficiency coatings. By 1978, Hill was working on satellite solar panels. Knowing that it was difficult to generate money in new universities for fundamental research, he concentrated on developing hardware for testing solar cells. In parallel, he promoted clean energy not just in Britain and elsewhere in Europe but across the globe. Hill was the ideal advocate of change, tackling the technology issues as well as the economic, environmental and social costs of different energy systems.

In the late 1970s he taught on the innovative (and short-lived) Social and Physical Sciences degree at Newcastle Polytechnic and he traced his long-term interest in uniting these perspectives to this experience. Throughout the remainder of his career he sought to make complex technologies understandable to non-scientists, and to build an integrated and cross-disciplinary approach to sustainability. Although an internationally renowned scientist, Hill had a pragmatic, down-to-earth manner that could present complex technologies for the lay audience.

Bob Hill's work and life were an inspiration to those who met him. He was totally dedicated to the future of the environment and the need for an open-minded approach to science and scientific policy. He had a vast range of contacts who will all miss his presence, his wisdom and, not least, his sense of humour.

Robert Hill, physicist: born 24 June 1937; Senior Demonstrator, School of Physics, University of Newcastle upon Tyne 1968-71; Lect-urer, Department of Physics and Physical Electronics, Newcastle Polytechnic (later University of Northumbria at Newcastle) 1971- 74, Senior Lecturer 1974-80, Reader in Opto-Electronics 1980-84, Professor 1984-97, Director of Newcastle Photovoltaics Applications Centre 1984-98; twice married (one son, one daughter); died Newcastle upon Tyne 26 November 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?