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Department of Physics

The Cavendish Laboratory
Pencil sketch drawing of Richard Eden by Bob Tulloch.

Members of the Laboratory will be sad to learn of the death of Richard Eden at the age of 99. He received his Cambridge doctorate in 1951 under the supervision of Paul Dirac. He won the distinguished Smith's Prize in 1949 and was elected to a Fellowship at Clare College in 1951. His areas of research at that time were in quantum field theory, nuclear physics and high energy physics. He was a pioneer of the S-matrix theory of particle physics and with Peter Landshoff, David Olive and John Polkinghorne wrote the definitive account of the theory in their book, The Analytic S-Matrix (1966).

When the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics was founded in 1959, many of the theorists who were housed in the Cavendish chose to join the new Department, but Richard preferred to remain in the Cavendish where he created a theoretical group within the High Energy Physics group. He and Volker Heine led theoretical physics in the Laboratory with considerable success.

The energy crisis of the early 1970s led him to analyse in detail various newspaper claims about the nature of the problem and he soon changed the focus of this research from particle physics to energy studies. In 1974 he founded the Energy Research Group in the Laboratory and from 1982 was Professor of Energy Studies until his retirement in 1989. From 1974, he served on the UK Advisory Committee for Energy Conservation. In many ways, he was far ahead of his time in recognising the need for serious research in energy studies and his group was a considerable success in training PhD students in the necessary tools to make the discipline the subject of serious analytic academic study.

Richard played a major role in the founding of Clare Hall in 1966. He drew up the plans for the College and persuaded Clare College of the importance of this initiative. The project was a great success, playing a key role in welcoming distinguished visitors to Cambridge from all over the world and particularly in somewhat more remote disciplines from those needed for college teaching purposes. He was later Vice-President of the College and published a book on the College’s history in 2009.

We pass on to his family our sincere condolences on this sad occasion.

Malcolm Longair.

Image: Part of ‘Conversation Piece’ by Bob Tulloch, 1984. Courtesy of Clare Hall.