Professor Sir Brian Smith (1933-2023)

St Catherine’s College is saddened to share the news that Professor Sir Brian Smith, former Master of St Catherine’s College, has died aged 89.

Sir Brian was founding Fellow in Chemistry 1960-93, Master 1988-93, and Honorary Fellow of St Catherine’s College from 1993 until his death. He also served as Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University from 1993-2001. In 1999, he was awarded a knighthood in recognition of his efforts in building university links with industry and commerce.

Throughout his career, Sir Brian deepened the College’s strength in and reputation for both the sciences and the arts. After completing post-doctoral research at UC Berkeley, he joined the College as Physical Chemistry Fellow in 1960 with research focused on intermolecular forces. Alongside his fellow chemists at St Catherine’s, he worked to establish the College as the first to give science parity with the humanities. Always interested in innovation, he was one of Oxford’s first computer users, using an old valve-operated Mercury computer.

In 1990, during his tenure as Master of St Catherine’s, Sir Brian oversaw the establishment of the Cameron Mackintosh Chair of Contemporary Theatre, solidifying the College’s central role in the arts for the whole university.

Sir Brian is remembered by those he met for his humour, uplifting spirit and welcoming manner. His appetite for learning and innovation continued well into retirement, with keen interests in walking, climbing, and a constant engagement with the students of St Catherine’s.

The College’s flag is flying at half-mast in his honour, and the thoughts of members of the College are with his family at this time.

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