Professor Harvey Flower

Dedicated materials scientist at Imperial College
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The Independent Online

Harvey Millard Flower, metallurgist: born 4 July 1945; Research Assistant, Department of Materials, Imperial College London 1970-72, Lecturer 1972-84, Reader 1984-92, Professor of Materials Science 1992-2003; married (two daughters); died Shanklin, Isle of Wight 14 August 2003.

Harvey Flower was an internationally recognised materials scientist and a dedicated teacher at Imperial College London.

He made a major contribution to our knowledge of aluminium and titanium alloys. His careful studies on the control of microstructure and the correlation of microstructure with industrially important properties were influential in the development of these alloys. He was awarded the Imperial College Armstrong medal in 1974 and in 1988 the Rosenhain medal from the Institute of Materials for research on the physical metallurgy of titanium alloys.

Born in 1945, he grew up in Beckenham, Kent, and was educated at St Dunstan's College in south-east London, where he was a high achiever. He was the first in his family to go to university when he read Natural Sciences at Christ's College, Cambridge. He graduated with a First in 1967.

By this time, he was attracted by the structure of materials, particularly metals, and the use of electron microscopy to examine the structure in fine detail. He moved to Imperial to carry out research in this area and on completion of his PhD in 1970 was appointed to the academic staff of the Department of Materials. He spent the rest of his very productive career in the same department, and was appointed Professor of Materials Science in 1992.

Flower was also active in a consulting partnership, which undertook a wide range of investigations from the failure of a heart valve to the fracture of the shaft of a ship's propeller. Following the chemical plant explosion at Flixborough in Lincolnshire in 1974, he and his partners discovered that zinc liquid and vapour may embrittle stainless steel; this led to new regulations restricting the use of galvanised wire for holding insulation onto stainless steel pipework.

He had an ability to convey his enthusiasm for materials science to others and many generations of students are indebted to him. He was a thoughtful and supportive research supervisor, an accomplished lecturer and an understanding tutor. At the time of his death he was Director of Postgraduate Studies and Director of Research for the department.

Flower had a great love of literature - his tastes ranged from Old English sagas to the history of the Spitfire - and of music, particularly Wagner. He and his wife Gladys, whom he married in 1978, were active members of his local church, St George's, Beckenham. He was a modest, caring man, devoted to his family and proud of their achievements.

Rees Rawlings