Sir Geoffrey Ford

First Secretary of FEMS, 1987-92

Geoffrey Harold Ford was born in Lewes, Sussex, on 6 August 1923 and was educated at the town’s County Grammar School, where he displayed good abilities in science. He was selected for a place at university under the wartime “Hankey Scheme” which allowed promising youngsters to complete the first part of a science degree before recruitment to one of the services. After studying Physics at Bristol University for two years he was commissioned into the Royal Air Force in October 1942. His first appointment was to St. Margaret’s Bay, Kent, to a branch which had responsibility for the air defence radars for the south-east of England. He was then posted to command a mobile radar unit in Algeria before being moving it to Italy where he provided support to the fighter squadrons during the Allied advance up the west coast to Rome and beyond.

After the war, he returned to Bristol University where he completed his degree with first class honours. In May 1947, he was appointed to a permanent commission as a Flying Officer in the RAF. During an enormously successful career he worked on ground-based radar defence systems, the development of bombing and navigational aids, and the development of guided weapons. He attained the rank of Air Marshall on 1 July 1978, by which time he was Controller of Engineering and Supply, in which capacity he was also the Chief Engineer of the RAF.

Following his departure from the RAF in April 1981, and not wishing to enter industry, he became Secretary of the Metals Society in London. He has been credited with transforming the Society into a 20th-century organisation with a Royal Charter as the Institute of Materials (now the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining). He fostered close relations with colleagues in France and Germany, helping to found the Federation of European Materials Societies (FEMS) in 1985, and serving as its first secretary from 1987 to 1992, when he finally retired.

Geoffrey Ford received two Orders of Chivalry from the Queen. In 1974 he was appointed CB (Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath) and he was knighted KBE (Knight Commander of the British Empire) in 1978. He was also elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. He died on 1 April 2007, being survived by his wife Valerie, whom he had married in 1951, and their two sons.