Top physicist played vital role in country’s nuclear fuel programme

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Professor John Gittus of Alcester.

ONE of the country’s top nuclear physicists, who was born and raised in Alcester and educated at Alcester Grammar School, has died, aged 88, after a short illness.

Professor John Gittus was diagnosed with a brain tumour last November and died peacefully at home in Alcester with his wife Ann by his side. The couple moved back to Alcester in 2000.

Professor Gittus enjoyed a brilliant career in nuclear physics which saw him play a vital role in the formation, expansion and latterly consultation of nuclear and energy matters worldwide.

Born in Alcester in 1930, the son of Henry and Amy Gittus, he married his wife Ann in 1953 and the couple had three children; Michael Gittus (current Stratford District Councillor and Alcester Town Councillor), Sara Gittus and Mary Gittus.

Cllr Gittus said his father never forgot his old contacts in Alcester, was very much a family man and ten years ago on a trip to the States got on a Harley Davidson motorbike for the first time in 25 years and spent the best part of a week riding the bike as he’d always had a passion for old motor cars and bikes.

Professor John Gittus’ education saw him achieve a
BSc London 1st Maths 1952; DSc Phys London 1976. DTech Metall Stockholm 1975. CEng, FIMechE, FIS, FIM. FREng.

He invented Nimonic 115 (holds the patent for), the first reliable metal alloy used even now in jet engines for turbine blades. He held a series of senior posts in the UKAEA, where he headed the late Lord Marshall’s Task Force at Harwell and produced the UK’s first nuclear-reactor Probabilistic Risk Assessment, for Sizewell B. He became director of the research and development programme that underpinned the design details of Sizewell B.

He was appointed by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority to report on the failure and consequences of The Chernobyl accident. His report to government was published in 1987.

He was the director responsible for the restructuring of the UKAEA before he left to become the first Director General of the British Nuclear Industry Forum, where he gave further advice on the restructuring of the UK nuclear industry.

On the death of Lord Marshall of Goring, Professor Gittus was appointed to succeed him at Cox Insurance Holdings Plc, advising on the insurance of the world’s nuclear power stations and other nuclear installations.

He and his business partner ran Lloyds of London Insurance Syndicate 1176, the biggest commercial insurer of nuclear power stations and other facilities in the world.

Amongst his many published papers are two communicated to the Royal Society by P.A.M. Dirac and describing Professor Gittus’ solution of a problem with the structure of matter which Dirac said he himself had been unable to solve.

Professor Gittus was a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (Britain’s top 1,000 engineers) and had Doctor of Science degrees from the Universities of London and Stockholm for his published papers describing his research work. He has held over 30 patents and published over 100 single-author papers in learned Journals describing his personal research.

John Gittus was elected Regents’ Professor at the University of California in Los Angeles in 1990. He was Visiting Professor at the University of Plymouth, England. He was a Director of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (later AEA Technology) was a Consultant to Governments and private industry on nuclear and energy matters world-wide. His Clients included, BNFL Plc, The UK Government’s Department of Trade and Industry, Serco Plc, NTI, Japan, The Sumitomo Corporation, Japan, Amersham Plc the world’s leading radio pharmaceutical company, Chaucer Insurance Holdings Plc.

Professor Gittus was a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (Britain’s top 1,000 engineers) and had Doctor of Science degrees from the Universities of London and Stockholm for his published papers describing his research work. He has held over 30 patents and published over 100 single-author papers in learned Journals describing his personal research.

His publications include, Uranium, 1962; Creep, Viscoelasticity and Creep­fracture in Solids, 1979; Irradiation Effects in Crystalline Solids, 1979; (with W. Crosbie) Medical Response to Effects of Ionizing Radiation, 1989; (with P A M Dirac) Dirac’s Large Numbers Hypothesis.

He was also a member of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Recalling fond memories of his father, Cllr Mike Gittus said: “I remember growing up as a child and there were magazines and theorems all over the house. He loved to set himself new and difficult tasks in order to savour them and solve them before he went to sleep.”

The funeral service for Professor John Gittus was held at St Nicholas Church, Alcester on 6th February.