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Queen Mary University of LondonQueen Mary University of London
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Prof Alan Thomas

Prof Thomas
Position: Visiting Professor
Location: , Engineering, Mile End
Expertise: Physics and engineering of rubber

Brief Biography

Professor Alan Thomas is one of the country's leading research Materials Physicists. He is, and has been for many years, the UK expert in Rubbery Materials, a fact which is acknowledged world wide, particularly in Japan and the USA.

Alan was awarded a scholarship that enabled him to attend Brasenose College, Oxford to study physics, graduating in 1948. He then accepted a position at the British (now Malaysian) Rubber Producer's Research Association, not because he had any prior interest in rubber but largely because it was the UK centre for high quality research into long chain molecular materials. When he arrived his research director Dr Ronald Rivlin suggested to him that he should study the strength of rubber. This was a formidable request to make of a 21 year-old inexperienced researcher. But he applied himself to the task and has been working with this broad aim in view ever since.

He developed the theories of strength and crack growth, the basic concepts of which underpin all current work in rubbers and plastics. His original papers, produced while a young man, are still frequently mentioned in almost every branch of rubber science and engineering. His work from then to the present day is characterised by his ability to address difficult scientific and technical problems from an original point of view, work out the consequences mathematically in a simple but elegant theory, and support the conclusions by a few well designed, searching experiments. In consequence his ideas have been accepted widely and quickly and even sometimes regarded as obvious, but of course only after the pioneering work was carried out. His fundamental solutions to the real technically difficult problems of friction and wear (tyre applications), bridge and earthquake bearings have lead to life saving advances.

The work of Alan Thomas has been recognised by the award of many prizes and medals in the UK, USA Europe and Malaysia. Most notable of these are the Colwyn Medal of the UK Plastics and Rubber Institute and the Charles Goodyear Medal of the American Chemical Society awarded for the first time to a non-US citizen. His employers MRPRA, received the Prince Philip award in 1990 for his pioneering work on earthquake bearings. He is also much sought after world-wide, as an industrial consultant because of his ability to see to the bones of, and solve real technological problems.

He has been a visiting Professor in the Materials Department at Queen Mary since 1974, continues to supervise PhD students in the rubber research group, give invited papers at international conferences and to publish quality papers in international journals.