Derek Robinson. 27 May 1941 — 2 December 2002

John Connor, Colin Windsor


Derek Robinson was a leading UK plasma physicist of his generation. After an early success in measuring the electron temperature in the ZETA plasma through the Thomson scattering of laser light, he became a key member of the team from Culham Laboratory sent to Moscow in 1968 to verify the high temperatures claimed by the Russians for their T3 tokamak. On returning to Culham his research activities continued to broaden and he became an acknowledged expert on a range of fusion devices. His management responsibilities grew in parallel and eventually he became Director of Culham. With his strong support, Culham explored the novel spherical tokamak devices START and MAST, and he promoted this concept as an alternative route to the conventional tokamak for developing fusion power. His energetic leadership and his mastery of theory, experiment and fusion politics brought fusion power nearer to reality. His vision of the ‘way forward’ for the international fusion programme remains with us after his life was so sadly cut short by the unexpected development of lung cancer in a non-smoker.