In memoriam: J Bruce Forsyth
09 Aug 2023



It is with great sadness that we share the news that Bruce Forsyth has died at the age of 91.

Photo of J Bruce Forsyth in 1997
​Bruce Forsyth was a renowned research scientist who made significant contributions to the study of the atomic structure of magnetic materials through his developments of the technique of polarised neutron scattering.

Following a PhD in Cambridge, Bruce moved to Harwell where he designed and built diffractometers on the Dido and Pluto reactors as part of Harwell’s expanding user programme providing access for academic researchers.

He joined the Neutron Beam Research Unit, at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in 1972. The NBRU, under the leadership of Leo Hobbis, had been set up initially to support the development of a research reactor to replace Dido and Pluto. However, with the closure of the NIMROD synchrotron on the RAL site, the opportunity presented itself to build a world-leading pulsed neutron source based on the accelerator infrastructure and expertise at RAL, which eventually became the ISIS Facility.

Bruce played a key role in developing the scientific case for ISIS as secretary of the ‘Structure Determination’ working group (led by Brian Fender), which assessed the range of science that could be achieved by the new source and outlined the key parameters for a number of crystallographic instruments, including the High Resolution Powder Diffractometer HRPD and the Single Crystal Diffractometer SXD.

Promotion to an Individual Merit post soon followed and Bruce's career developed in instrument building both at RAL and the ILL, Grenoble; in science and in computing. His computing skills were key to defining the computing and data acquisition system for the new facility and his acronym PuNCH (Pulsed Neutron Computer Hierarchy) lives on at ISIS today. He co-authored the specification-of-requirements document issued to companies bidding to supply the control and analysis computers.

His main scientific contribution was in crystallography, principally magnetic structures, and specifically exploiting the scattering of polarised neutrons, where he made many innovations in tandem with his long-time collaborator, Jane Brown of the ILL. As well as authoring scientific papers on the subject, he was instrumental in producing the Cambridge Crystallographic Subroutine Library CCSL suite of software which is still widely used in the international scientific community.

Bruce retired from RAL in 1997 after 25 years on the international scene but continued to be active with honorary positions at the Clarendon Laboratory, Oxford and the University of Warwick as well as collaborations in Grenoble.

Throughout his career, Bruce brought enthusiasm and energy to all his work – engaging and positive and always sporting a cravat!  He was a ‘light touch’ manager, allowing and encouraging his team to develop and flourish. He and Janette made team members welcome, and were generous in making their holiday home in East Portlemouth available to colleagues.  Bruce was a class act and a true polymath.

Mike Johnson, Bill David, Andrew Taylor

Contact: Richardson, Stephanie (STFC,RAL,ISIS)