In Memoriam: Stuart Tovey (1939 2010)

25 January 2011


It is a great honour, if a very sad one, to be able to give you a flavour of Stuart Tovey's outstanding contribution to Physics in Australia.

I first met Stuart almost exactly 25 years ago, when he was giving me an informal interview for a lectureship at Melbourne. Not only have we been close colleagues in the intervening decades, we have also been good friends.

Stuart joined the University of Melbourne as a lecturer in 1975. He was rapidly promoted to senior Lecturer, and then to Reader and Associate Professor. He received his BA from Cambridge (1960), and PhD at Bristol (1964) working in the famous Cecil Powell group in cosmic rays. This he followed with a series of fellowships at Bristol, University College London, CERN and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK.

Stuart's association with CERN runs long and deep. He published nearly 300 papers in peer reviewed international particle physics journals. He was prominent in the sixties and seventies in the study of hyperons and kaons, even discovering a new baryon with both charm and strange quarks. He put the many interestingly named particles to good use in the numerous popular articles he wrote.

He studied anti-protons, and went on to co-discover the famous W and Z bosons at CERN on the UA2 experiment. His enthusiasm for this exciting period was clear to all, and it was infectious. This experience further evolved into development of the ATLAS experiment.

Fabiola Gianotti was a student at UA2 and recalls his smile and encouragement in the early mornings at the CERN cafeteria (7:00am Stuart was definitely a morning person!). She describes him as: “A model both as a scientist and as a person.”

John Ellis describes Stuart as “a genuinely good bloke, as well as being one of the pioneers in Australian high energy physics and in our collaboration with CERN”. In fact, this human side of Stuart, the good bloke, was evident throughout his career. For many years he coordinated the Honours physics program at Melbourne a program that was not for the fainted-hearted. He showed how adept and in-tune with people he was in this role, treading the fine line between encouragement and realism. In the latter case, counselling students into alternative directions when he thought that to be in their best interests. The honours students of the period were very well served, and many went on to PhDs, often under Stuart's guidance.

Stuart's international engagement and strong personal and professional ties with CERN ensured strong ATLAS participation by Australia. I remember well discussions with the then Director General of CERN, Chris Llewellyn-Smith and the director of the LHC project, Lyn Evans, as we were instigating this process, where the respect with which Stuart was held was clearly evident.

Peter Jenni, described Stuart as being: “such a loyal and friendly collaborator over many years, with whom we shared a lot of physics and collaboration.”

In the intervening years, whilst ATLAS and the LHC were being built, Stuart along with friend and colleague Lawrence Peak from Sydney, really shared the role of the fathers of modern high energy physics in Australia. The Australian Institute for High Energy Physics was formed, on which Stuart was the Chair for many years. Australia joined an important neutrino experiment at CERN, NOMAD, followed by the Belle experiment in Japan.

Fortunately, Stuart was able to share in the excitement of the successful operation of the LHC and ATLAS. He also witnessed the successful award of a national Centre of Excellence in Particle Physics, something he strove for over many years. In fact, after writing a paper on collider physics together in 1984, Stuart and Allan Clark of the University of Geneva pursued a role for Australia's participation. They were ahead of their time. The CoE gives justification to their early recognition of the need for such participation.

Although formally retired in 2001, Stuart maintained his active interest in the program, being Australia's representative on the ATLAS Resource Review Board until very recently. He and his wife, Val, continued to be regular and welcome participants (often accompanied by a new recruit puppy they were training as a Guide Dog) in our group's activities in Melbourne until his death.

Stuart's untimely death is being acutely felt both by colleagues and friends here at the University of Melbourne, and by those at the many institutions around the world who have worked with Stuart over his career. He will be missed.

Geoffrey Taylor
University of Melbourne