Reporter 442, 8 November 1999


Resolution adopted by the Senate (20 October 1999) on the retirement of
Professor Keith Bartle

Keith Bartle studied part-time for graduate membership of the Royal Society of Chemistry whilst working for the Coal Tar Association as an assistant chemist. He came to Leeds for his PhD in 1962, working with J A S Smith on nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). Those were the early days of NMR, when chemists were discovering the power of the technique using rudimentary instruments. It proved an important training ground for Keith and initiated his commitment to the development and application of analytical instruments, a commitment that continues still. Following postdoctoral work at the Universities of Bradford and Stockholm, he returned to Leeds as a Senior Instructor in Physical Chemistry in 1969.

Keith’s main duties related to the undergraduate teaching laboratories, which he ran efficiently and effectively; the Leeds laboratories were widely admired, thanks in large part to his considerable efforts. His Head of Department, Peter Gray, perceptively recognised Keith’s research skills and encouraged him to continue with his analytical research, provided he fulfilled his very substantial teaching duties. There was a flood of papers in the early 1970s, many of them on NMR and covering a wide range of applications; his first papers on gas chromatography also started to appear at about this time. Keith rapidly established himself as an international leader in gas chromatography and more recently in the general field of separation science. His work is rooted in the soundest of science and is innovative with a constant eye on important and wide-ranging applications. He is a ‘networker’ par excellence and has innumerable co-workers and contacts throughout industry and academe. At Leeds, his interactions with Fuel and Energy are long-standing and have been particularly successful, but he also has continuing links with Earth and Biological Sciences and his expertise and vision were crucial in the establishment of an Atmospheric Chemistry programme here. His most successful collaboration has been with his colleague in Chemistry, Tony Clifford, which started in the late 1980s. Together they recognised the power of supercritical fluids as separation and reactive media and crafted an internationally leading research programme. Their company, Express Separations, grew out of this work. Keith had to develop his own modus operandi to maintain his phenomenal productivity and many discussions were held on the move - literally - as Keith walked at great speed down the corridor. Needless to say, his large research programme was incompatible with the post of Senior Instructor and Keith became first a senior lecturer and then was proposed for promotion to reader in 1991. He was destined, though, not to become a reader - the external assessors insisted that his case warranted direct promotion to a personal chair, which duly took place. His achievements have also been recognised through awards from the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Chromatographic Society, the award of the H G Frank Medal by the International Tar Conference and innumerable plenary lectures at international conferences.

Despite his exacting research programme, Keith remained committed to teaching and especially practical teaching, and his interest in the teaching laboratory was evident until his retirement. He took a full part in the running of the School of Chemistry, especially through his wise counsel, and he played a key role in the University as Chairman of the Safety Advisory Committee. Keith is retiring early, aged sixty, to free up time for research and for Express Separations. It is difficult to imagine it as a relaxed retirement and we are sure that the research papers and ideas will continue to flow. Indeed we expect them to, since he has been retained as a part-time Research Professor. We wish Keith and his wife Christine continued health and happiness and time to relax over the many years ahead.

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