In Memoriam - Dr George Richard Field (20th December 1940 - 8th October 2017)

Posted on
8 Nov 2017

In Memoriam - Dr George Richard Field (20th December 1940 - 8th October 2017)

Richard FieldRichard "became hooked on Science and by 'A' level turned into a Physicist" at University College School in Hampstead. His first degree, in Maths and Physics at King's College, London introduced Richard to a life of calculations and the new activity of Computing. His Ph.D. was happily spent solving equations of all sorts, by numerical methods, to model spectra results from electro-magnetic waves and ionic crystals. Whilst working in a government computer lab, he "got the bug for helping users to complete their calculations" and subsequently Richard joined the staff of The Computer Board for Universities and Research Councils to further this end.

In August 1973 the NAG Project moved from Nottingham to Oxford University. Co-operation between universities and government labs was exactly what the Computer Board wished to foster. Richard and I met and immediately became friends - 44 years ago.

Richard nursed the early days of NAG from the government side, providing contacts and opening doors in universities and government research centres. Equally he helped us gain access to university, government and industry funds. All of this came with his excellent, sensitive advice. Richard was a major aide and influence as the Group grew and formed into "a Company limited by Guarantee, associated with but not part of the University of Oxford" incorporated on 18th March 1976. He was part of the negotiation with the University of Oxford as we left the University (and its accommodations) and became financially self-supporting on 1st August 1980.

Richard had returned to the University community and started his personal meteoric rise; Head of User Services, Manchester Regional Computing Centre (1977 - 1981); Director of the University of London Computer Centre (1981-1990) and finally Vice Principal of Edinburgh University - in charge of Information Strategy and Academic Services (1990 - retired 2003).

Richard became an elected member of the NAG Council of Management in September 1986 at AGM 10 and was regularly re-elected until AGM 30 in December 2006. He became Chair of the NAG Council of Management at AGM 21, succeeding Dr David Hartley who stepped down as Chairman but remained a member of the Council. Richard served as Chairman for over 9 years.

He presided over a period of great change for NAG Ltd including the appointment of the second Director/CEO (following my retirement as Founding Director/CEO in 2004), leading the discussion of revised Articles of Association for the Company and the evolution from a Council of Management to the NAG Board, with a reduced number of Board Members.

Richard took strong interest in the user community of the NAG Library too. He chaired the first meeting of the embryonic NAG User Association in 1980 and hosted the 1984 meeting in London unforgettably arranging for Professor Sir James Lighthill, Provost of University College, London as our after dinner speaker. Richard was always a perfect gentleman, a great leader and an excellent chair. He had real dignity and presence - with a splendid wry sense of humour. At the 1986 NAGUA meeting in Oxford a speaker became obstreperous after a proper challenge by our local, professorial expert. Richard's unflappable response, "My, it's six o'clock. The pubs are open. It's time to stop. Thank you colleagues". We all left.

He was very kind and thoughtful too. "So you work with the Principal of Edinburgh University. He is such an important man in Scotland!" said an emigre, Scot visitor from the United States. At the NAG dinner in Edinburgh that night Richard seated this colleague next to the Principal, Professor Sir Stewart Sutherland and introduced her. She was overwhelmed.

Richard was an outstanding administrator. I never heard Richard say a negative word about anyone, and equally never heard anyone say anything bad or unkind about Richard. He was always quietly principled and he had a gentle will of steel. He was great company and fun too! Wise, shrewd practical Richard quietly delighted in life. He was a great family man as well.

All of us in NAG have lost a wonderful friend and supporter.

Brian Ford, NAG Founder Director