Reporter 423, 21 September 1998


OBITUARY

EMERITUS PROFESSOR JACK NUTTING (8/6/1924 - 8/7/1998

Jack Nutting was a Yorkshireman to the core and this, the most modest of his achievements, would probably be the attribute for which he would most have wished to be remembered. He admired, and himself personified, the qualities often associated with his native county - he showed grit, determination and a great zest for everything he undertook in his life.

Brought up in the West Riding, Jack attended Mirfield Grammer School and in 1943 entered the Univ.of Leeds, where he had been persuaded to join a small group studying metallurgy with the aid of state bursaries promoting certain subjects critical to the War effort. He achieved a first class honours degree and went on to undertake research in the overheating and burning of steel , for which he was awarded a PhD. He was to retain a strong interest in the roles of sulphur and other impurities in steel to the end of his life.

He subsequently joined the British Iron and Steel Research Association and was seconded to the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge, where he worked with Dr V E Cosslett and Professor E Orowan, developing techniques for the examination of metals with the electron microscope. In 1949 he was appointed Demonstrator, and in 194 Lecturer in the Department of Metallurgy at Cambridge. He had previously become convinved that the electron microscope could be widely aapplied to metallographic problems, and with a group of research students he was soon to confirm this, beginning with studies of the changes occurring during the tempering of carbon steels and extending this to alloy steels. Secondary hardening was investigated, as was the correlation of microstructure with creep behaviour.

The carbon extraction replica methods used in this work proved unsatisfactory for aluminium alloys, but new thin foil techniques were developed to enable metal specimens to be examined directly by transmission in the electron microscope. Early reactions in the precipitation hardening of aluminium alloys could then be detected and it later became possible to study shear transformations and the nature of martenside. The interactions between dislocations and precipitates became a major feature of subsequent work.

In 1960 Jack Nutting was appointed Head of the Metallurgy Department in the Houldsworth School of Applied Science in the University of Leeds. He set himself to the development of new courses encompassing a wide range of metallurgical topics, all of which were underpinned by the individual and group researcheds of the young staff he soon gathered around him, several of whom he had supervised at Cambridge. The most prominent activities were concerned with electron microscopy and he used his persuasive personality to attract funds for the building the the comprehensive electron-optical facility which became widely know for its output, both of metallurgical findings and of highly trained electron microscopists.

The number of undergraduates, research students and technical staff rapidly increased and a strong family spirit was engendered. Jack’s management style was relaxed - he did not believe in authoritiarian or prescriptive rule but rather in appointing theright staff and trusting maatters to their own judgement. The Department became a focal point for distinguished academic visitors from all over the world, and his home at Weetwood Lane was expecially noted for the friendly hospitality, often provided at short notice wiith the willing help of his late wife, Thelma. There were outdoor activities too, with summber barbecues in the Dales and keen exploration of the lead mining gills and hostelries of the North Riding, often based at their small farmhouse in Swaledale. Jack’s reputation amongst the local farmers was enhanced when he dismantled and repaired a deperately needed milking machine suing an improvised gasket, a skill clearly honed when wrestling with leaks in more refined vacuum systems. Muker village hall became a highly improbable venue for at least one major research meeting.

Althugh Jack Nutting’s career was spent almost wholly within the university system, he was a big believer in the industrial application of scientific metallurgy. He encouraged colleagues to become involved in consultancy and authorship and was proud of his own contribution of ideas to some of the major firms in steel and engineering. He travelled widely to present papers and visit plants and laboratories. Jack played a major role in the professional institutions and learned societies concerned with materials, and especially in the evolution of The Institute of Materials from its earlier constituent bodies - he had served as President of two of these, the Metals Society and the Institution of Metallurgists, and had also been President of the Historical Metallurgy Society.

Jack Nutting’s qualities as a lecturer were outstanding - notes were little in evidence and a piece of chalk and a few slides of speciments were sufficient to rivet the attention of colleagues and students alike. Such performances were matched in discussion, where his forthright views were expressed with courtesy and humour.

In the University, Jack’s outspoken comments provided a major contribution to policy discussions. The more recent trends in university affairs were not always to his taste and he had neither the patience nor the guile to cnceal some of his dislikes. The spontaneous, sometimes impetuous nature which was an integrap part o his character did not endear him to all, but was understood and admired by the numerous friends and colleagues for whom diplomacy was seen as subordinate to the facts. In the Dales, a certain landowner was similarly startled to be admonished to restrain his dog in the presence of the sheep, even though he was standing on his own land.

Jack remarried in 1995 and moved south to Maidenhead, where he continued happily with his consulting activities and his varied work for The Institute of Materials. He and his wife Diana had attended a luncheon at Carlton House Terrace on the day of his death. They had been looking forward to a Swaledale visit later in the Summer.

Jack Nutting had retired from the University in 1989 but it was not in his nature to retire fully. In latter years he had formed yet another connection, as Visiting Professor at the University of Barcelona, where he made many fruitful and enjoyable visits, and he also maintained an active connection with Leeds through a research project which he had helped secure for the School of Materials. He had only the previous week attended a steering group meeting, held near Oslo with a number of European steel producers, and had thanked their Norwegian hosts with a typical and well-received after-dinner account of his own Nordic roots in Yorkshire.

Jack Nutting might at one time have descirbed himself variously as a ferrous or a physical metallurgist, but he nevertheless always maintained strong interests in extraction and production metallurgy. He was also eventually awarded the Institute’s Platinum Medal for his services to non-ferrous metallurgy, adding this to his earlier Hadfield and Beilby Medals and many other distinctions, including honorary doctorates from universities in Poland and Sri Lanka. He was later prominent in the boradening of the already wide subject spectrum to embrace non-metallic materials throughout the professional system. The extent and depth of his contributions were recognised in his election in 1980 to the Fellowship of Engineering - he had been a Fellow of the Institute since 1960 and had been awarded the degree of Sc.D from Cambridge University in 1967. He will long be remembered by his former students and colleagues.

Jack Nutting is survived by his second wife Diana and by his two daughters Alison and Jeannie and on Peter.

Peter Beeley

Dr Peter R Beeley Ceng FIM
Life Fellow, The University of Leeds