May 28, 2024

My grandfather, Brian Haywood, who has died aged 91, spent his career working as a nuclear physicist, mainly at the UK Atomic Energy Authority at Harwell in Oxfordshire.

He was born in Birmingham to Vi and Hal, who ran a fournier shop. Brian, an only child, experienced much of the blitz and spent the evenings in an air raid shelter. He attended Bearwood Road School, then won a scholarship to King Edward VI Five Ways Grammar School, and in his first year was evacuated to Monmouth with his classmates. He stayed here for a year.

After returning to Birmingham, Brian took an undergraduate degree and then a PhD in physics at the University of Birmingham. He also met my grandmother, Anne James, who worked in the department. The couple married in 1956, and when he got his first job at Harwell, they moved to Wantage.

In 1960, the young couple moved to Deep River, Ontario, after Brian was offered a job at Chalk River Laboratories, a nuclear research facility. They had a daughter (my mom) and went on a road trip adventure Canada and the USA with baby in tow, before returning to the UK in 1963.

Brian Haywood at the UK Atomic Energy Authority in Harwell, Oxfordshire, in the 1960s

They had a second daughter and the family moved to Abingdon, Oxfordshire. For the rest of his career, Brian continued his nuclear research at Harwell, particularly in the 1960s and 70s, in neutron scattering. Later he moved to the materials physics and metallurgy department, where his work included research on gas pipes for British Gas contracts.

In 1993 Brian and Anne moved to Christchurch, Dorset. Brian was passionate about learning and could speak French, German and Russian, struggling with Spanish and Welsh. In retirement he attended French conversation classes, volunteered at the Red House Museum in town and was treasurer of his local branch of Probus, the club for retired people. He enjoyed a daily walk to the beach and spending time with his family.

Despite bowel cancer, a triple heart bypass and a stroke, Brian lived independently with Anne until last year. His love of learning stayed with him even as he developed dementia, but he struggled after his stroke in 2017 deprived him of one of his greatest joys: reading.

He is survived by his daughters, Helen and Elizabeth, and his grandchildren, me and Tom. Anne died two weeks after him.

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