Brian E. Conway remembered (1927-2005)
Chemists at the University of Ottawa treated Saturday like any other working day during the 1960s and 1970s, with Brian Conway generally being the first to arrive at the laboratory and the last to leave. In addition to helping set up experiments, he was also able to exercise his superb talent for glass-blowing. Most of this work was routine, but occasionally he would take several hours to form an intricate electrochemical cell from scratch. He was like an artist in his element, savouring the challenge; nor did he mind if others looked on.
I was fortunate enough to be one of those ‘others’, a doctoral student who had been told to study “with the master and you will truly understand electrochemistry at the end of your work.” The value of this advice was demonstrated to more than 100 students and post-doctoral fellows — many of whom are now leading scientists in industry, government or academia — who worked with Brian during a career that lasted more than 50 years. We realized that he had a unique and all-consuming passion for scientific research, as well as the ability to understand and explain phenomena in the physical sciences.
Brian was certainly the top electrochemist in Canada, and some say one of the top physical electrochemists in the world. His knowledge, memory and powers of reasoning were legendary in the scientific community, and his colleagues greatly benefited from those abilities. At the same time, he remained ever loyal to colleagues, who could always count on him for support and “words of wisdom.” Indeed, these virtues rubbed off on his students, who learned much more than science from this “master” electrochemist and mentor.
Brian received his PhD from Imperial College, University of London, in 1949, at a time when the field of electrode kinetics was coming into its own. After working at the Chester Beatty Cancer Research Institute of University of London until 1954, he took up an assistant professorship at the University of Pennsylvania. Near the end of 1956, he joined the University of Ottawa, where he continued to carry out research until the end of his life this summer. He is survived by his wife, Nina, and one son, Adrian, a PhD electrical engineer in the high-tech field living in Boston.
Barry MacDougall is a principal research officer with the National Research Council of Canada and an adjunct professor at the Faculty of Science.
Dr. Brian Conway, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Chemistry, passed away on July 9, 2005. He was 78 years old. He is survived by his wife Nina and his son Adrian.
A world-renowned electrochemist, Professor Conway had a long and distinguished career at the University of Ottawa that spanned five decades.
Prior to his arrival in Canada, Professor Conway obtained his Ph.D. from Imperial College in 1949 (he later obtained his D.Sc. from the University of London in 1961) and worked as a research associate at the University of London from 1949-1954. He joined the University of Pennsylvania in 1954 as an Assistant Professor.
In 1956, he was lured to the then two-year-old Department of Chemistry at the University of Ottawa as an Associate Professor by the late Professor Keith Laidler. He was promoted to the rank of Full Professor in 1962.
Professor Conway served as Chairman of the Department from 1966-1969 and from 1975-1980. He was a Killam Senior Research Fellow from 1983-1985 and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) - Alcan Professor of Electrochemistry from 1987-1992.
He is the author of more than 400 refereed publications and four books. Amongst his most prestigious honours and awards are Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (1968), the Chemical Institute of Canada Medal (1975), the American Chemical Society Kendall Award in Surface Chemistry (1984), the Electrochemical Society Henry Linford Medal (1984), the Olin Palladium Medal and Award of the Electrochemical Society (1989), the Galvani Medal of the Italian Chemical Society (1991), and Fellow of the Electrochemical Society of America (1995).