Royal Society Publishing

David Tabor. 23 October 1913 — 26 November 2005

John Field


David Tabor died in Cambridge on 26 November 2005. At the time of his death he was Emeritus Professor of Physics and an EmeritusFellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. He was a humane and gentle man, yet despite his modesty he was a formidable and respectedscientist. With Philip Bowden (FRS 1948), he laid the foundation for understanding friction and lubrication and the way in which contactingsurfaces interact. Both Bowden and Tabor had great physical insight and were empiricists who favoured the most direct and simple approach toproblems. They built up a research group that was interdisciplinary and motivated to basic research but with a flair to see the practical advantages of their research to industry. As individuals they would both have achieved much, but the way in which they integrated produced anexceptional ‘team’. There are many examples of the benefits of their collaboration. Their research started in Cambridge; during theWorld War II period they ran a laboratory in Melbourne, Australia, with both returning to Cambridge after the war. Initially, they were part ofthe Chemistry Department but left Physical Chemistry to become part of the Department of Physics in 1957, when Nevill Mott FRS was Head of Department. After Bowden's death in 1968, Tabor became Head of the Physics and Chemistry of Solids (PCS) Group as it was called, and remained Head until he retired in 1981. Tabor continued as an Emeritus Professor and researcher. In 1992, a new group (Polymers and Colloids) was founded and worked in the ‘Tabor Laboratory’. A visiting Professorship at Imperial College, London, continued and papers were produced up to 1998. He was, indeed, a scientist of great originality and versatility.