14 September 2022

Obituary – Sir Graeme Davies FREng CEng FIMMM

Graeme Davies made significant contributions to research in the solidification of metals and held key administrative posts in several prestigious UK higher educational institutions, combining a mastery of detail with good humour and outstanding managerial skills.

Sir Graeme Davies FREng CEng FIMMM

Graeme John Davies died at his home in Nottinghamshire, UK, on 30 August 2022 aged 85. He occupied a string of prestigious posts during his career, each being marked with many achievements. An entertaining and highly likeable character, he forged many long-lasting friendships across the world.

He left New Zealand in 1966, with a PhD from Auckland on the mechanics of copper, arriving in Cambridge, UK, to join the metallurgy and materials science department. He was elected to a Fellowship in St Catherine’s College the following year, subsequently becoming dean and a tutor. He made an immediate impact in the rapidly growing materials (largely metallurgical) community, creating a thriving research group and becoming a popular lecturer. His scientific contributions mainly concerned crystallographic texture and solidification.

Graeme took up Chair at Sheffield in 1977 and moved on to become vice-chancellor at Liverpool in 1986. In 1991 he was appointed to the key administrative post of chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), fulfilling this important role during a period of rapid evolution in tertiary education. After four years at HEFCE he became principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Glasgow, Scotland. His final major educational post, from 2003 until 2010, was as vice-chancellor and president of the federal University of London, UK.

In parallel with these appointments, he was a trustee of many charities and a member, or chairman, of internationally significant institutes, foundations and advisory boards. In all these activities, he managed to combine mastery of detail with good humour and outstanding managerial skills. For many years, he and his wife Florence, whom he met in New Zealand when they were both very young, were renowned for hosting a huge range of highly enjoyable social events.

Graeme held visiting professorships on four continents, received 13 honorary degrees and was elected to Fellowships of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and the Royal Society of New Zealand as well as the Institute. He was knighted in 1996. Graeme is survived by his second wife, Svava, and by his son Michael and daughter Helena.  A memorial service will be held in London during November. It will be attended by a wide range of people, each with their own fond memories of a remarkable man.