Professor W J Stirling


12 November 2018

We are very sad to inform you that our friend and colleague Professor James Stirling passed away on Friday.

James was educated at Peterhouse and had a distinguished career as a theoretical particle physicist. He was a world-leading authority on the structure of the proton, and the nature of the strong force which binds quarks into the matter which we see in atomic nuclei.  He was exceptionally talented mathematically, but also astonishingly good at making difficult concepts seem simple. He was also excellent at collaborating with both theorists and experimentalists, a rare talent which put him at the centre of the action.  At Durham he was responsible for the creation of the Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology and the Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics. He returned to Cambridge in 2008 to take up the oldest named Chair in Physics at the University: the Jacksonian Professorship. He had spent a lot of time in senior management and science policy in his previous roles, and declared his intention to get back to hands-on research. But inevitably, given his experience and good humour, he became the obvious candidate to lead the Department. Leading a large Department full of occasionally fractious academics can be challenging, but James made it look easy, and it was no surprise that he was head-hunted to become the first Provost of Imperial College.  On his departure, the Governing Body of Peterhouse unanimously elected him to an Honorary Fellowship.

He was greatly respected as a scientist and much loved as a friend, colleague and mentor. Details of his memorial service will be announced as soon as they become available.