John Sherwood’s Obituary


John Sherwood, my friend and colleague, who died at the age of 87, was an academic physical chemist who made a significant contribution to understanding organic crystals and their imperfections.

In our daily lives, organic crystals are ubiquitous: in pharmaceuticals, oils, soap, candles, chocolate, ice cream, agrochemicals, components of explosives, and fiberglass. In such crystals, John investigated the imperfections and how they influence their efficiency and effectiveness. He was interested in the manufacture of ultra-pure, fine, and large single crystals of many materials for use in science and industry (greater than 10 cm3).

The son of William Sherwood, a French teacher, and his wife, Lily (née Rose), a housekeeper, John was born in Redruth, Cornwall. He attended Bradford’s Aireborough Grammar School, then studied chemistry at Durham University, where he met Margaret Shaw; in 1958 they were married.

John was appointed lecturer in chemistry at the Royal College of Science and Technology in Glasgow (now the University of Strathclyde) in 1960, after completing a PhD at Durham.

He founded the first research center for the growth and perfection of organic crystals when he became Professor of Chemistry in 1977, creating crystals of a quality that has not been surpassed to this day.

In several ventures, John worked closely with industry and government agencies, including improving polymer fiber purity, preventing fuel crystallization in cold weather, regulating explosive stability, and designing new crystals for fiber optic communication systems.

He was a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Royal Society of Chemistry and published more than 250 research papers. He was a founding member of the British Association for Crystal Growth and later chairman of it.

John has been an excellent mentor to young colleagues, enabling them to work together, gain international experience, and develop leading academic and business careers.

At Strathclyde, he held a number of senior academic posts. He served for three years as Dean of the Faculty of Science and then for six years as Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University.

He became Vice-Rector of Strathclyde in 1994 – a position chosen by academic peers. By being courteous and personally cordial to everyone, and by recognizing that he stood for the academic community’s core values, he earned confidence and admiration.

He was an active member of the Episcopal Church in Bearsden, Glasgow, and an avid gardener before he retired in 2002. He enjoyed the outdoors and spent his family holidays hiking in nature and exploring his RV in new areas.

John and Margaret both had a deep love for India, making several trips to visit work contacts and friends there. Before he recently stopped for health reasons, John kept writing and publishing.

Margaret passed away in early 2020, and Rosemary and Jennifer’s daughters, four grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and David, his younger brother, survive John.


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