Lyn Williams: a dedicated builder of Chemistry at Durham
(4 September 2006)
Professor Lyn Williams, a member of Durham University’s Chemistry department for more than 40 years, has died at the age of 70.
A tall quietly spoken Welshman with a delightful wit, Professor Williams was a well-known figure in the department - which he joined in 1963 and continued to support after retirement as Emeritus Professor from 2001 - and in the chemistry community around the world. He contributed to the development of Durham Chemistry into one of the most highly-regarded departments in the UK, with top ratings for both its teaching and research, and also to its international status for research and post-graduate study. His own field was in the study of how organic chemicals react. Lyn Williams was also an all-round University man who gave a lot of time as a tutor for student welfare in Hatfield College, and was well-known in the city and region. He loved many sports and was one of the match-day announcers at the County Durham ground in Chester-le-Street. Vice-Chancellor Sir Kenneth Calman said: “Lyn Williams is remembered with great warmth and respect by generations of graduates and many colleagues throughout the University, particularly in Chemistry and at Hatfield College. Our deepest sympathy goes out to his family and many friends.” After his appointment to a lectureship, Lyn Williams was successively promoted to Senior Lecturer (1977), Reader (1985) and Professor (1991). He was Head of the department (1992-95) and served on senior University committees and other bodies. He was also one of many Durham academics who have encouraged an interest in science by giving talks to school children and others, illustrated with impressive practical demonstrations of processes and reactions. Professor Williams’ speciality was the chemistry of colour, including dyes and pigments. Beyond science, Professor Williams had a great love of choral singing and organ music. He was a founder member of the Northern Sinfonia Chorus and played regularly at services in the United Reformed Church, Waddington Street, in Durham. He discovered similar interests among research colleagues and was proud to have had the opportunity to play the organ in the famous cathedrals of Santiago de Compostela and Burgos in Spain. A native of Ammanford in the western valleys, he was a Welsh-speaker and much in demand to give talks at events celebrating his homeland. As a lifelong cricket enthusiast, he played for the staff cricket team for several years. He played squash into his 60s and continued to play bridge and follow Welsh rugby. An avid gardener, he also worked on allotment for many years and had recently resumed an interest in the stamps of Sierra Leone, where he had spent a period in the 1960s teaching at Durham University’s partner college. He died at Newcastle General Hospital, where he had been in intensive care for injuries he suffered in a fall last month. Professor Williams is survived by his wife Gill, former wife Lona and their daughter Elenid and son Aled, and two grandchildren. The funeral is on 12 September, 2.00pm at the United Reformed Church, Waddington Street, Durham, followed at 3.30 at Hatfield College. The family has asked that in place of floral tributes, donations may be made to the Leukaemia Research Fund via funeral director Stuart Wright in Durham.