Professor Richard Brook - 2001

Richard Brook

Richard Brook graduated from the University of Leeds in 1962 with a first class degree in Ceramics. His graduation was only the first step in a long and distinguished career involving the chemistry and science of ceramics, which later led to his appointment by the UK Government to advise on university and industrial research relating to ceramic products.

Following graduation, Richard Brook left the UK for graduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and later moved to the University of Southern California as Assistant Professor of Materials Science. He became well known for his work on the defect chemistry of oxides, but in 1970 returned to the UK as group leader for electrical ceramics at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Harwell. Here his work involved general processing studies of ceramics as well as more applied studies such as the development of high temperature fuel cells.

In 1974 he returned to the University of Leeds as Professor and Head of the Department of Ceramics. Here his reputation continued to grow as a result of the many technological advances flowing from his research.
Later, three years in Stuttgart at the prestigious Max-Planck Society ended when he went to Oxford University, first as Cookson Professor and, in 1995, as Professor of Materials Science and a Fellow of St Cross College. While at Oxford he became chief executive at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council or EPSRC, the body responsible for administering hundreds of millions of government funds for university research in Science and Engineering.

When he went to the EPSRC, Prof Brook conducted a full review of the Council's policy and operational activities. He initiated a change process which was to lead to the completely new and revitalised EPSRC we know today. It has become an example of best practice among the many research councils and grant awarding bodies here in the UK and overseas. I list only a few of his achievements:

  • he abolished the old committee structures, or some might say, the old boys' networks; he established the College of Referees to which members are opted in at regular intervals by the wider research community. This made the grant awarding process very transparent. As a consequence the key criteria for successful grants are now the quality of the science, and the originality of the engineering ideas, rather than the institution from which the submission is made. I should add that the greater emphasis on quality and originality of research has helped Brunel significantly to enhance its research income from EPSRC to £10m a year so that we are now in the top third of all UK institutions.
  • finally, he refocused the Council's policy for awarding grants to give higher priority to fundamental research, while at the same time rewarding innovation, strategic and applied research of high quality.
    Professor Brook continues in this role, until later in the year, when he becomes Director of the Leverhulme Trust. This is a body which gives out grants to a wider range of academic disciplines. I can reliably forecast that Professor Brook will become even more popular, and that he will distribute the Trust's resources without fear or favour (and my application is currently being drafted!).

Professor Brook has published more than 180 scientific papers and has been awarded several patents. He is a Distinguished Life Member of the American Ceramic Society. He is a Membre d'Honneur of the Societe Francaise de Metallurgie et de Materiaux and was the first recipient of the Stuijts Award of the European Ceramic Society. He is a member of the Senate of the Max Planck Society. He became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1988 and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1998. He is currently editor of the Journal of the European Ceramic Society.

In short, Professor Brook is a true scientist and a great scientific administrator, of whom the country can be proud.

Chancellor, it gives me great pleasure to present to you Richard Brook, for degree of Doctor of Engineering honoris causa.

DEng - July 2001

Page last updated: Wednesday 30 March 2011