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"PRY" 2003 Obituary


PRYCE o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-06-12 published
Died This Day -- 13 school canoeists, 1978
Thursday, June 12, 2003 - Page R9
Adventure outing by Saint John's School, Claremont, Ontario, struck by high winds on Lake Temiskaming, single capsize caused panic and the upset of other canoes, led to deaths of teacher Mark DEANNY and boys
Timothy PRYCE,
Simon CROFT,
Kevin BLACK,
Autopsies showed all drowned but that some had been in water 12 hours before death occurred.

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PRYCE o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-09-09 published
PRYCE, Maurice Henry Lecorney
Maurice Henry Lecorney PRYCE died at Vancouver, British Columbia, aged 90. He was a theoretical physicist with very broad interests. Following a spectacular early career at Cambridge, Oxford, and Bristol, he spent the second half of his life in the United States and Canada. Born in Croydon, England, on the 24th of January, 1913, he spent part of his childhood with his French mother in France where he learned to speak French 'like a Normandy peasant'. He was always encouraging to his two younger brothers, and fond of risky experiments such as using a magneto to fire a small cannon loaded with home-made gunpowder. Educated at the Royal Grammar School in Guildford he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1930, graduating in 1933 and continuing to do research there initially with Sir Ralph Fowler and subsequently with the Nobel laureate Max Born. He spent two years as a Commonwealth Fund Fellow at Princeton University in 1935-7 before returning to Cambridge as a Fellow of Trinity College. During this period in Cambridge he made outstanding contributions to the so-called ''New Field Theory'' proposed by Born and Infeld. He also wrote an incisive paper demolishing the then fashionable idea that light quanta might consist of pairs of neutrinos. Paul Dirac, then one of the most influential theoretical physicists, was so impressed (which was a very rare occurrence) that he spontaneously offered to communicate the work to The Royal Society. Maurice PRYCE later remarked that this was the high-point of his scientific life. In 1939 he was appointed to a Readership in Theoretical Physics at Liverpool University, and married Margarete (GRITLI) BORN. At the advent of war he joined the team working on radar at the Admiralty Signal Establishment, and in 1944 transferred to the Joint Atomic Energy Project in Montreal. In 1945 he returned to his fellowship at Trinity College, Cambridge, and a university lectureship, but was soon invited to become Wykeham Professor of Physics at Oxford, a chair which had recently been earmarked for a theoretical physicist after the long tenure of Sir John Townsend. It was a bold appointment for someone aged only 32, who looked even younger than his years. At Oxford he rapidly acquired a large group of research students, many returning from war service, several of whom were to become very distinguished in their fields. His interests and knowledge spread across many branches of physics, and students were put to work on widely ranging topics stretching from field theory, the nuclear shell model, liquid helium, to solid state physics. Maurice PRYCE became most directly involved in interpreting the magnetic properties of atoms which were being studied in great detail through the paramagnetic resonance techniques by Brebis Bleaney and his colleagues in the Clarendon Laboratory. Almost half his published work relates to this area where he elucidated in detail the interaction between the magnetic electrons and the lattice (the crystal field), the effective lattice dynamics (the Jahn-Teller effect) and interaction with the nucleus (hyperfine structure). He also added considerably to the understanding of the magnetic properties of atoms in the actinide series, including the newly discovered transuranics. During his time in Oxford he took sabbatical leave to spend a year as Visiting Professor at Princeton. On his return he acted as the part-time head of the theoretical physics division at the nearby Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell, where he replaced the previous head, Klaus Fuchs, who was arrested in 1950 and convicted on a charge of spying. In 1951 Maurice PRYCE was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1954, frustrated by the constraints of his position and in particular by the autocratic management of Lord Cherwell, he accepted an invitation to succeed Nevill Mott as Henry Overton Wills Professor of Physics at the University of Bristol. With greater administrative duties as head of the department he had less time to develop his research group but he continued with the subjects that he had begun at Oxford. His first marriage had broken down, and he married Freda KINSEY in 1961. He then accepted a tempting offer by the University of Southern California, and moved there in 1964, with the promise of resources to build up, essentially from scratch, a first class physics department. The reality turned out to be less attractive than he had hoped. In 1968 he moved again to a chair at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver where he was to remain until his death, on the 24th of July 2003. During these later years his main contributions were in the quite different field of astrophysics, although others, on molecular photoionisation and on the properties of the hydroxyl radical, continued to display his versatility and his wide understanding of physics. This knowledge was greatly valued by his colleagues who would rely on a critical appraisal of their work and its interpretation. But he did not suffer fools gladly and was a harsh critic; in a seminar, he could devastate the speaker and embarrass the audience with his acerbic comments. He also continued his interest in atomic energy derived from his wartime work and was latterly a member of the Technical Advisory Committee to the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited with a particular interest on nuclear fuel waste management. Some of his last work related to the questions of the safety of deposit of radioactive materials in geological structures. Maurice PRYCE was a keen walker and camper and, in younger days, a dinghy sailor. He was a competent pianist and liked to relax by playing classical music, mainly Bach and Mozart. He was a good cook, which stood him in good stead when entertaining Friends and family after his second wife died in 1990. He inherited from his father a love and knowledge of gardening, which he passed on to all four of his children. He always kept a boyish liking for silly games, from elaborate sandcastles on the beach to noisy card games on the living room floor. Until ill health stopped him, he was a skilful Scrabble player. He created a family tradition, perhaps characteristic of his personal philosophy, of Collaborative Scrabble -- the main aim is, within the rules, to maximize the overall score rather than to beat the other players. The mathematical gene has also passed on to his son John, well known in his field of mathematical software engineering; and to John's son Nathaniel, a professional software engineer. The last 14 years of his life he spent in the company of his great friend Eileen GOLDBERG, the widow of a South African lawyer who had been active in the fight against apartheid. They shared their love of music, literature, and walks in the woods. In December, 1997, he was incapacitated by an osteoporosis-induced bone fracture and subsequent infection, and spent his last five years at the University Hospital in Vancouver, visited daily by Eileen. During this period his mind was unaffected, and he bore immobility and frequent pain with patience, courage and a sense of humour, remaining in exemplary good spirits throughout. He is survived by his son, John, and three daughters, Sylvia, Lois and Suki, all from his first marriage.
Copyright: Roger Elliott and John Sanders/The Independent, London.

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