John Gordon Collier, F.R.Eng. 22 January 1935 — 18 November 1995

G.F. Hewitt

Elected F.R.S. 1990


John Collier was a chemical engineer who, in his earlier career, was a specialist in two–phase flow and heat transfer. He was formerly Chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and was Chairman of Nuclear Electric plc when he died on 18 November 1995.

John Collier was born in London on 22 January 1935. His father, Jack Collier, was a musician who was one of the country's leading double–bass players. Jack had turned down the job of lead bass with the Hallé Orchestra at the age of 20 and set out to see the world. While playing in the ship's band on a transatlantic trip he met John's mother (Edith Georgina de Ville, a passenger on the same ship) and married her soon afterwards, in 1925. John was their only child and his infant years were spent in prewar London, his father making a name for himself playing music of a wide variety. During the war, Jack Collier became a member of ENSA, the Forces' entertainment service. His attempts to protect his wife and child against the bombing seemed to be relatively unsuccessful; he moved them to Southampton, Coventry and Manchester in turn! The young John Collier, at the age of six, was actually machinegunned by a German fighter plane flying down a Southampton street. John and his mother finally returned to London just in time for the start of the V1 (flying bomb) raids. All these moves meant that John attended nine different schools during the war years–a very disruptive experience.

The family was reunited again after the war but their happiness was short–lived; John's mother (Edith) had a recurrence of the cancer she had suffered towards the end of the war and died in 1948. In 1951, Jack Collier married Guinevere (Jean) Olga Northcote. By this time, he was working freelance, playing with the major London orchestras; he was much in demand. He still did some work with lighter music, particularly on the radio where he played in such programmes as ITMA (Tommy Handley) and The Goon Show (Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers), and he later played on television shows such as The Morecombe and Wise Show.

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