Western University Physics adn AstronomyWestern Science

Parker Alford 1973 to 1984

The next Chairman was a prominent former graduate of Western, W. Parker Alford [1973-92] (Western, BSc, 1949; Princeton, PhD, 1954). Parker was born in London, and was a gold medal graduate from the Physics Department. Following his PhD he accepted a position in Physics at the University of Rochester; at the time he left to come to Western he was Acting Director of the Nuclear Structure Research Laboratory at Rochester. Parker remained Department Chairman until 1984, and took normal retirement in 1992. Throughout his time in the Department, he maintained an active research program in intermediate energy nuclear physics. Since there was no nuclear physics activity at Western his research was carried out at other facilities, particularly, in the 80's and 90's, at TRIUMF, where he continues to participate in experiments. Parker's skills served the Department well through a difficult time when there were few opportunities for departmental renewal. Between 1973 and 1983, only one new faculty member was hired and three departed.

Chairs 1961 to 1989
Department Heads and Chairmen, 1961 - 1989. Left to right, Dr. Peter Forsyth (Head, 1961-1967), Dr. Bill McGowan (Chairman, 1969-1972), Dr. Parker Alford (Chairman, 1973-1984); Dr. Graham Rose (Chairman, 1984-1989).


By the end of Parker Alford's second term as Chairman the Department was getting old, which meant that the 1980's could be a period of rebuilding. That started in 1982 with an offer the Department couldn't refuse. The University was establishing a centre for surface science, Surface Science Western, and it was considered important that there be some related research activity in the Department of Physics, hence a position was available, with strings attached. The result was that in 1983 we hired Peter J. Schultz [1983-1995] (Guelph, PhD, 1981), who established the Positron Beam Laboratory, an important step in a great strengthening of Condensed Matter Physics at Western over the next decade. This strengthening had already started almost by accident, as plasma physics work by P.K. John [1968-1996] (Ohio State, PhD, 1963) was found to be useful in the preparation and study of amorphous silicon. This led to a research collaboration with B.Y. (Philip) Tong [1967-present] (UCSD, PhD, 1967) which lasted for some time. Finally, as Parker Alford's term as Chairman came to an end, the Department was also able to fill the vacancy resulting from Bill McGowan's departure with the appointment of J. Brian A. Mitchell [1984-present] (Belfast, PhD, 1975), who took over the operation of the MEIBE laboratory.