Remembering SCI Past President, Sir Geoffrey Allen. 1928-2023

Sir Geoffrey Allen, Past President of SCI and a world-renowned polymer scientist, has died at the age of 94.

Sir Geoffrey Allen
Sir Geoffrey's picture hanging in SCI's gallery of Presidents at 14-15 Belgrave Square.

Sir Geoffrey became known for his work on the thermodynamics of rubber elasticity, and was the first to measure the cohesive energy densities of intermolecular forces in polymers. Sir Geoffrey’s research involved the extensive use of infrared and Raman spectroscopy, and he published many research papers on the physical properties of rubbers, plastics and polymer solutions.

In the early 1970s, Sir Goeffrey was invited to join ICI on a part-time basis as the Associate Director of the company’s Corporate Laboratory. Initially seen as an unconventional career move, this role provided him with invaluable insights into ICI's scientific advancements, business operations, and academic networks within the UK and around the world.

Moreover, it granted him a unique perspective on the symbiotic relationship between academia and industry, inspiring him to explore ways to enhance this collaboration. These experiences would ultimately shape Sir Geoffrey's future endeavours beyond academia and lay the foundation for his remarkable achievements.

In a surprising turn of events, in 1975 Sir Geoffrey, a distinguished chemist, was appointed as the Chairman of the Engineering Board of the Science Research Council. This appointment marked a significant milestone, as Sir Geoffrey pioneered an interdisciplinary approach to materials that bridged the gap between engineering and the sciences. Over the next few years, the Engineering Board's funding increased substantially, invigorating activities in polymer engineering, marine technology, and production engineering.

In 1977, Sir Geoffrey assumed the esteemed position of Chairman of the Science Research Council, succeeding Sam Edwards. On his appointment, Shirley Williams, Secretary of State for Science and Education, expressed her desire for him to champion engineering within the academic community and, most importantly, foster stronger industry-academic relations. This directive resonated deeply with Geoffrey, aligning with his long-standing aspirations and drawing upon his invaluable experience at the intersection of ICI and academia. In recognition of his exceptional contributions, he was knighted in 1979. In 1981, Sir Geoffrey moved into the private sector, becoming Research and Engineering Director at Unilever.

Sir Geoffrey served as President of SCI from 1989-1991, and gave the SCI Leverhulme Lecture in 1990 ('Our Chemical Industry in 2001'). He was awarded the Society’s prestigious Lampitt Medal in 2017. Sir Geoffrey was actively involved in the organisation of SCI’s Public Evening Lectures well into his 80s and was an ever-present guest at the lectures even into his 90s, remaining keenly interested in the latest developments across the range of sciences and science-based industry. He was also dedicated to supporting the next generation of scientists and engineers in industry, actively supporting SCI’s Early Careers Committee.

Sir Geoffrey Allen passed away peacefully at home on 15 March 2023.

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