Lives Remembered: Tom Mulvey

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The Independent Online

Tom Mulvey was a prolific and original scientist who played a key role in shaping the development of the electron microscope. He was equally known as a witty and charming person who was devoted to his family and his students.

Born in Manchester on 26 July 1921, he attended St Bede's Grammar School, Manchester from 1934 to 1938. As a College Apprentice with Metropolitan Vickers, he read Engineering at Manchester University from 1940 to 1943. In May 1943 he joined the Royal Navy, where he played a key role in the maintenance of anti-submarine equipment, initially for the D-day Invasion Fleet and then in the Far East.

After the war, he returned to Metropolitan Vickers, taking an MSc degree at Manchester University in 1949. He then moved to the company's research establishment at Aldermaston Court in Berkshire. Here he worked on holography, using the ideas of Denis Gabor, and was fortunate in being able to obtain the first hologram, using zinc oxide crystals. He made significant contributions to electron microscopy during this period, including a paper on magnetic circuit design in 1953.

When the Aldermaston Court laboratory closed down in 1963 he moved to AEI Harlow. In 1965 he moved to what became Aston University as Reader in Electron Physics and gained a DSc from Manchester University in 1971 in recognition of his research work. He was appointed Professor of Electron Physics at Aston in 1974 and became Emiritus Professor on his retirement in 1986. During the Aston years, he was known for his lens studies, including a series on unconventional magnetic lenses which included the so-called "snorkel" lens, a reference to his earlier experience with submarine equipment.

Tom Mulvey was greatly respected by his research students and often went out of his way to assist them with their work, making extensive use of a talent for languages to help them feel at home. He supported electron microscopy in the Czech Republic during the Communist era, and was awarded the honorary Gold Medal of the Czech Academy of Sciences in 1995. Apart from his scientific work he was also an active member of the Society of St Vincent De Paul, working tirelessly in support of under-privileged families.

He continued to enjoy the companionship of his grandchildren to the end. His warmth and encouragement are greatly missed, by his family and by many scientific colleagues.