Archie Campbell obituary

Other lives: Scientist who made a remarkable contribution to the field of applied superconductivity for more than half a century

My husband, Archie Campbell, who has died aged 79, made a remarkable contribution to the field of applied superconductivity for more than half a century. Superconducting materials have enabled the development of powerful magnets and led to applications such as MRI scanners and energy storage.

Born in Edinburgh to Cecile (nee MacRobert) and Archibald, an Edinburgh solicitor, Archie was educated at Edinburgh academy and Glenalmond college, near Perth, where he resisted pressure to take up classics as he knew that he wanted to be a scientist. In 1959 he was awarded a scholarship at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, to study natural sciences.

Following his degree and a PhD in materials science, he continued his career in the Cambridge University engineering department, where he was appointed a lecturer in 1974 and retired as emeritus professor of electromagnetism in 2007.

Together with Jan Evetts in 1973, he published Critical Currents in Superconductors, which became the standard text on the subject. Later he developed a pioneering method for measuring the penetration of magnetic flux into superconducting materials, which is known as the “Campbell technique” and lives on to this day.

Archie and I met in a mathematics class at Cambridge and we married in 1963. We had three children, Frances, Emily and Diarmid, followed by nine grandchildren, one of whom died shortly after birth.

We made our home in Cambridge – and Archie was often to be seen riding around the city on his bike, frequently with our dog in the basket.

Always oblivious of his appearance, he had holes or hastily applied safety-pins in even some of his smartest clothes. But he was known for his sharp, analytical mind and his generous nature, giving help and advice to his students and younger scientists.

However, electromagnetism was not his only area of expertise: he was an expert on fungi, edible and non-edible, and a competent clarinettist and player of the bagpipes.

He was also resourceful and inventive: on one occasion, with the family stranded at the side of the road, Archie disappeared underneath our camper van armed with an empty can of baked beans and a piece of garden twine – and patched it up so that we could limp home.

On his retirement his colleagues and collaborators from around the world honoured his work with the Campbell Conference, hosted jointly by his undergraduate and postgraduate colleges in Cambridge.

He was elected to a fellowship at Christ’s College in 1966 – and in 2018 he was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the International Cryogenic Materials conference. He submitted his final paper for publication just days before his death.

Archie is survived by me, our children, and grandchildren Eliza, Ella, Hannah, Kaz, Saskia, Cassidy, Lulu and Maisy.

Anne Campbell

The GuardianTramp

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