Obituary: Professor Peter Ayscough

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Peter Brian Ayscough, physical chemist, born Lincoln 1927, Reader in Physical Chemistry Leeds University 1968-75, Professor 1975-92 (Emeritus), died 30 January 1993.

PETER AYSCOUGH was distinguished for his work on electron spin resonance spectroscopy in the study of chemical reactions and in the application of computers to teaching.

Ayscough was educated at the City School, Lincoln, and at St Catharine's College, Cambridge, where he obtained his Ph D under the guidance of Professor HJ Emeleus. He came to Leeds in 1955 as an ICI Fellow after two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the National Research Council of Canada, where he worked with EWR Steacie and John Polanyi.

At Leeds he joined Professor FS Dainton (now Lord Dainton) and commenced work in the newly developing field of electron spin resonance (ESR), using the technique to study the way in which chemical reactions occur. He built his own spectrometer and successfully exploited ESR in the study of photochemistry, radiation chemistry and reaction kinetics. His research focused on free radicals - highly reactive molecular fragments - and he was amongst the first in the world to observe and analyse chemically induced dynamic electron polarisation in radical reactions. His excellent book on ESR spectroscopy in chemistry was a landmark. His innovative work and his position as one of the leading ESR scientists in Europe was recognised by the award of the Sc D degree by Cambridge University and by his appointment at Leeds to readership in 1968 and then to a personal chair in 1975.

Peter Ayscough excelled in all the important spheres of academic life. He devised and delivered outstanding lecture courses, embracing over the years most aspects and levels of physical chemistry. He pioneered the use of computers in the teaching of chemistry, coaxing or provoking colleagues into a deeper examination of the teaching function, and making Leeds an internationally recognised centre in this field. The Library of Physical Chemistry Software, developed in collaboration with PW Atkins, of Oxford, is the fruit of many years of effort.

Ayscough was a most effective administrator and served several times as acting head of the Department of Physical Chemistry. For many years he carried out the formidable task of controlling the department's finances.

One of his many pleasures was walking and climbing in the mountains. He was also a keen motorcyclist - I remember his telling me once how sorry he was that he had not discovered the joys of motorcycling until in his early fifties. His love of the open air included long traverses of the Yorkshire moors and dales on wheels as well as on foot.