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A reminiscence from Roy Turner, former faculty member[edit]

The university was founded in 1961 with premises in Brighton but science did not begin until 1962. I was coming to the end of a post doctoral fellowship at Oxford. I didn’t know Roger because he was in nuclear and I in condensed state theory.  Anyway I was looking for a job, so I applied to Sussex. I was interviewed in Stanmer House by Roger and Ken Smith.
After I was appointed, I had to come down, twice I think, to Brighton to the Old Ship Hotel to discuss, I suppose, the syllabus. At those meetings were Dennis Hamilton, Les Allen, Geoff Jones, Roger and Ken. There were others but I do not remember who. Roger kept a lot of papers, so Audrey might have them.[Robert Smith writes: At some point after his retirement, Roger send several boxes of papers over to the University Library, where they still exist in the archives. I have used them as part of my contributions to the wiki, but I don't think they listed who attended the Old Ship meetings. People who were not there were Peter Dawber, Colin Finn, John Plaskett and Brian Smith and maybe others.

I have no memory of the discussions, as I have said, it was probably the syllabus and in particular SPM, which all students from physics, maths and chemistry were supposed to take. That worked fine for a while when Roger gave it but then, Ken took over and the chemists threatened to do a UDI. I can’t remember whether the maths students continued to attend or not.

The year started in Physics 1, with all the theorists on the top corridor and Roger and Ken in the big offices across the corridor, Roger as Dean and Ken as Chairman of Physics. Between their offices was the secretaries' office. Rowena Bowater was Roger’s secretary and Shirley Ansom, Ken’s. The records should tell you who was there in the first year. We were all given personal students and, such was the zeitgeist  of the times, that I remember telling mine that I was in loco parentis, try saying that today! The students were polite and in some awe of the faculty. They dressed well, including a university scarf.

During that year and in subsequent years more appointments were made, until at its apogee there were over 40 faculty in Physics alone. Again the records should confirm that.

I do not think much research was done in the first year, the experimentalists were setting up the teaching and research labs. The theorists were doing something. I was finishing a paper with my collaborator at Oxford on Thermodynamic Green’s functions. In those days there were no word processors or e-mail. A secretary would have to type the same paper several times and communication between Sussex and Oxford was by snail mail!

Fulton, the then vice-chancellor, had the theory that any subject needed a ‘critical mass’ of faculty before it would really take off. This rush to make appointments meant that the majority of faculty were young and inexperienced and only Roger, Ken, Douglas Brewer and Phil Elliott could be regarded as experienced  researchers.  Roger was busy running MAPS, I am not sure about Ken, but both Douglas and Phil set up groups, which I think were successful.   Eventually, the condensed state theory group, at its peak, had, I think,  7 members; Dave Goodings, Maurice Wilford, Peter Dawber, Michael Radcliffe, John Plaskett, Tony Leggett and myself. Without any leadership, we each went our own ways. Maurice Wilford finished up being a permanent sub-dean and did little if any research; Michael and John although both very clever people and helpful if one was stuck, published little if anything. I collaborated on one paper with Peter and another with Dave Goodings. That as far as I can remember were the only faculty collaborative efforts. Tony, of course, went his own celebrated way and even if he had collaborated with anybody, I doubt if we could have kept up with him! Of course this was in the days when academics did what they wanted to do and the idea of groups was virtually unknown. However I do believe that if one senior person had been appointed, there were enough good people to make the group much more successful.

One small point, the Sussex ideal of cross-subject research led to joint seminars with mathematicians. Each subject taking it in turns. The net result was that in the maths seminars, the physicists were bored and vice versa. That idea did not last very long!