18.6.09

Reg Mann (in memoriam)


Prof. (Emer.) Reg Mann (passed away on Sunday, June 7, 2009)

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Reg burst into the classroom, early in the afternoon of some weekday, back in October of 1977, greeted us and started bombarding us with various terms of Chemical Reaction Engineering. We were a group of students, having just enrolled in the homonymous option of the MSc course, in the Department of Chemical Engineering of what was then called UMIST. During the following months, he steered us through the course, delivering each week a lecture and handing out some tutorials and homework, so that we get prepared for the final exams. The course was neither very easy nor too hard, we got through the exams, I liked his style as well as the material he taught, so I approached him and asked if I could work with him for my MSc dissertation; he gave me a subject, and after some months, when I was about to finish, and having let him know that I was interested in carrying on my studies, Reg offered me a studentship that eventually got me through my PhD. That is when I joined his research group, and was allocated some space in his part of the lab, where I met Joe Allan, Ian Gardner and a few others.

It was from Reg that I heard also for the first time, and then quite a few other times, too, the phrase “I have a train to catch”: he was dashing, some time after four o’clock in the afternoon, to Piccadilly to catch his train back to Glossop. He was coming in Manchester usually rather early, so quite often I would find on my desk, when I was going in the lab, a brief note, alerting me about some reference, or about something related to our work with mixing in chemical reactors. Some other times, he would burst in the lab - but we knew he was coming: we could hear his fast pace up the corridor linking the main office level of the “Mill” to the lab annex. He would come in, frowning and grinning at the same time, asking all of us what and how we were doing, nudging us delicately but steadily onwards, and then he would disappear as suddenly back to his office.

I spent under Reg’s supervision more than three years, and I have kept fond memories of his presence, of his advice, of his efforts to keep me going whenever I was stumbling on some difficulty, of his lifting a bit my confidence. There were also moments of teeth gnashing (my teeth!), when I felt that he was pushing me too hard with his deadlines, only to find out that in fact it was not that hard, after all, to get the thing done, which a posteriori meant that HE knew that it was feasible!

We met again with Reg, later on, when he had become Professor at UMIST, at various “Mixing” conferences, and in Greece, too: on one occasion, the Greek Departments of Chemical Engineering (in Athens, Salonica, and Patra) had invited him, with a few other Professors from around the world, for advice on how to re-organize their Chemical Engineering curricula; he came also for working party meetings of a couple of collaborative research projects that we were working on, with partners from Sofia, Prague, Italy, France and the UK. In those meetings we would always enjoy his jovial presence, but would also benefit from his hard work and the pragmatic approach to problem-solving, that was always his main characteristic.

He left us suddenly. His family, his friends, his students, we are all left behind, with a sense of loss. We all lost someone dear. I will keep in my memory his smile, his fast thinking, his advice, his good-humoured attitude towards life’s problems.

“Let the earth that covers him be light”, as we say in Greece.

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