Professor E. G. S. Paige

Pioneer in surface acoustic wave research

E. G. S. Paige learnt his skills as a physicist at the Radar Research Establishment, Malvern. He worked in a world-class group inventing semiconductor devices to improve radar. After a mid-career change to Professor of Electrical Engineering at Oxford University, he enjoyed developing the talents of electrical engineers in their formative years.



Edward George Sydney Paige, physicist and electrical engineer: born Northiam, Sussex 18 July 1930; Junior Research Fellow to Deputy Chief Scientific Officer, Royal Radar Establishment, Malvern 1955-77; Professor of Electrical Engineering, Oxford University 1977-97; Fellow, St John's College, Oxford 1977-97; FRS 1983; married 1953 Helen Gill (two sons, two daughters); died Oxford 20 February 2004.



E. G. S. Paige learnt his skills as a physicist at the Radar Research Establishment, Malvern. He worked in a world-class group inventing semiconductor devices to improve radar. After a mid-career change to Professor of Electrical Engineering at Oxford University, he enjoyed developing the talents of electrical engineers in their formative years.

Ted Paige was born and brought up in the East Sussex village of Northiam. As an only child he spent a lot of time roaming the Romney Marshes, investigating the wildlife, and taking items home to view through a microscope. He liked to make things from bits of wood that came to hand, and he tinkered with the gears on his prized bicycle to improve performance. These skills were to prove valuable.

Paige went to Rye Grammar School and was evacuated to Bedford during the Second World War. In 1949 he won a County Major Scholarship and obtained a place at Reading University, where he gained a first class honours degree in Physics. This being the best result in the Science Faculty he won the right to attend the Association for the Advancement in Science exhibition in Belfast. With the stimulating encouragement of his supervisor, William Mitchell (later Professor Sir William Mitchell FRS), he obtained a PhD in 1955 with a thesis on the effects of irradiation damage in quartz.

During the next 22 years at the Radar Research Establishment (RRE) in Malvern, Paige progressed from Junior Research Fellow to Deputy Chief Scientific Officer. He joined the Transistor Physics Division under the leadership of Alan Gibson.

Paige studied the behaviour of free carriers in semiconductors. To interpret his data he had to improve his theoretical skills. Subsequently he set up informal colloquia in which colleagues took turns to review theoretically oriented articles from the literature. By this time his self-confidence was high and his quiet manner made him easy to approach for help, advice and the discussion of ideas.

In 1968 Ted Paige and Dennis Maines perceived that a renewed interest in Rayleigh waves on semiconductor surfaces in the literature might have considerable potential. A joint proposal to the Ministry of Defence resulted in a gear change for Paige when he was appointed leader of a 15-strong team, which he built into a coherent group. It was charged with research and development of surface acoustic wave (Saw) devices. Many patents, publications and applications followed, and the team's reputation spread internationally. In 1973 the MoD presented their Wolfe Award to the Saw team for their pioneering work.

Saw devices greatly boosted the performance of radar signal-processing systems. Paige supervised their design and development to specification for industrial manufacture. Saw devices came to be used in radar equipment fitted to the RAF's Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft.

Paige had many contacts in universities through his monitoring role for MoD extramural contracts. He regularly gave seminars and in 1966 spent six months as Visiting Professor in Copenhagen at the Technical University of Denmark. In 1977, he rose to another challenge: he was invited to become the Professor of Electrical Engineering at Oxford University. His research background in physics and familiarity with device manufacture, together with his interest in teaching engineers made him an ideal choice.

He quickly realised the need to upgrade the electrical teaching laboratories and to improve the resources for research. He was influential in restructuring the teaching of engineering. Chairs in Information Engineering and Optoelectronics were established. An Honours School in Engineering and Computer Science was set up jointly with the Mathematics Department. He was heavily involved with setting up the Honours School in Electrical and Structural Materials Engineering; he lectured on most topics in electrical and electronic engineering and was delighted with the enthusiastic response of students at the end of his electromagnetism course.

He enjoyed collaborating with research students as he continued his interest in surface acoustic waves up to 1986, when he spent a sabbatical year at Stanford University, California. This gave him the opportunity to get a background in optoelectronics. Back in Oxford he developed an interest in programmable light modulators, using them to develop optical techniques with potential for sub-micron lithography. A three-dimensional image system for use as a head-mounted display also followed from his work.

In 1978 Paige's achievements were recognised by the personal awards of the Duddel and Rayleigh Medals by the Institutes of Physics and Acoustics respectively. In 1983 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

After retirement in 1997, Paige enthusiastically regenerated the garden pond. He regularly attended meetings of the Oxford Photographic Society, taking up digital picture processing. He joined the Haemochromatosis Society after being diagnosed with this genetic disorder and later, as a director, he analysed the results of a questionnaire to determine the geographical distribution of UK patients, and investigate the extent of under-diagnosis of the disorder.

Ted Paige was happily married to Helen Gill, whom he had known from schooldays. They had a family of two daughters and two sons to whom they passed on their enthusiasm for bird-watching and the countryside.

Colin Clark

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