Edwin ‘Ted’ Smith FRS CEng FIMMM (Obit)

Fellows' Lounge
24 Sep 2010
Edwin ‘Ted’ Smith

Ted Smith was born in 1931 in Staveley, Derbyshire, to an officer on the Mines Rescue. At Chesterfield Grammar School he excelled in Mathematics. He wanted to be a miner, but his father, having experienced mining disasters, encouraged him to go to university. Ted graduated from Nottingham with a distinction in Mathematics. He did postgraduate work on the deformation of metals at the University of Sheffield. He was interested in the continuous distribution of dislocations, which was so relevant to fracture that it was the dominant theme of Ted’s research.

Working life

He moved to Aldermaston Court, the laboratories of the Associated Electrical Industries Research Laboratory, where he met Patricia Gale (Pat). She was his boss’s secretary and typed up his PhD thesis. They married in 1958. The same year, Ted ran his personal best in a marathon of two hours and 47 minutes. They were devoted to one another, attending meetings and conferences together.

In 1961, Ted moved to the CEGB Laboratories, Leatherhead, to work on fundamental problems in materials for electrical power generation. He went to The Victoria University of Manchester as Professor of Metallurgy in 1968. For a theoretician, he showed a remarkable disdain for computers. His skill was to distil the essence of a problem so that it fitted on the back of an envelope. His clear thinking and critical mind produced advances in the understanding of the integrity of engineering components, from nuclear fuel rods to pressure vessels and piping.

Ted’s directness and the clarity of his papers reflected his personality. He treated the humble and the great with equal respect, and valued an honestly given opinion, whatever the source. He never thought ill of or impugned the motives of anyone, however passionately he disagreed with their point of view.


Employment at The Victoria University of Manchester

He was single minded to a fault and desperate to excel in what he put his mind to. When he perceived no challenge, like in washing up, he switched off completely. The University waited with bated breath to see how he would approach the task of Dean of the Faculty of Science. He immediately put it in the ‘desire to excel’ category and showed a masterly grasp of University affairs.

He attracted the respect and trust of his colleagues, and achieved an efficiency of effort which sustained his research papers. He was Pro-Vice Chancellor from 1985-88. Ted was interested in relations with the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) and passionately believed in the Joint University/UMIST Department of Metallurgy and Materials Science. He played an important part in its creation and was its head from 1986-88, until he retired to become Emeritus Professor.

His reputation led him to be consulted regarding the integrity of critical engineering plant, particularly nuclear reactors and pressure circuits, in Europe, North America and Canada.


Assisting the nuclear industry

From about 1990, it was clear that the Canadian nuclear industry needed a new methodology to evaluate cracking at flaws in pressure tubes to ensure safe and economical reactor operation. Ted modestly remarked that he thought he could ‘contribute’. Using his analytical skills, insight and determination, he developed the process-zone methodology to evaluate flaws. This revolutionised the Canadian crack initiation research program, gained acceptance worldwide, and led to the publication of a Standard for the structural integrity of pressure tubes in CANDU reactors.

Ted later joined the Technical Advisory Group for the Structural Integrity of Nuclear Plant as an independent expert. Ted valued the focus that real engineering problems gave his research, relishing the complexity and the pressure of such issues. He was an advocate of industrially-focused research, supervising PhD students in the UK and Canada.

An appropriate epitaph would be ‘What is the bottom line?’. For all his activities, both scholarly and administrative, Ted had a clear sight of objectives and an uncanny success in achieving them.

Ted’s family, the University and industry (at home and overseas) are fortunate to have included this gifted, down-to-earth man of the people as part of our community.