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In Memoriam: Dr William (Bill) Glencross


It is with great regret that we must announce the death of Dr William (Bill) M. Glencross. Bill was a long-standing and well-respected member of the Astrophysics group and worked in the Department from 1963 to 2002.

The article below is a personal tribute to Bill, written by UCL colleague and friend Dr Ian Furniss:

Dr William M. Glencross was a long standing member of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. He began his UCL career in 1963 and retired in 2002.

His work was based at UCL firstly in the Rocket Group in 1963, and later with Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL). His work involved Skylark rocket born experiments and in 1971 an instrument he helped produce made spectral X-ray observations of the Sun. (MSSL was an out-station of the department set up in 1966 by the then Head of the Department Prof Sir Harrie Massey and Prof Sir Robert Boyd, the first director. It is now the Department of Space Physics.)

Bill’s path and mine crossed and merged in the late 1970’s when he was invited to join the Infrared group, based at Gower Street where he worked with the head of the group Prof Dick Jennings and myself on Far Infra Red observations (wavelengths covering 20 to 350 microns) of Galactic HII regions from balloon altitudes (>100,000 ft).

BillG, as he became known so as not to be confused with another group member BillT(owlson), and I made many trips, each of a couple of months duration over the years up to 1983, to Palestine, Texas. Along with the help of research students, post-docs and technicians we ‘flew’ the ‘Towlson/Venis’ designed UCL 60cm stabilised telescope and platform to the edge of space using large (120 million cu. ft) helium gas filled balloons. Infrared photometery and mapping were BillG’s area. He worked with research students and post-docs to develop mapping techniques for data we collected (2-D de-convolution using Maximum Entropy to produce ‘super-resolution’ maps) and models for the energetic mechanisms occurring in the central areas of the HII regions/IR sources we studied. For the latter he drew on his vast area of knowledge gained from his earlier work on solar physics and in particular the solar wind.

When the ballooning was no longer funded after 1987 by PPARC (now STFC) the IR group started to produce successful instruments for IR ground based observations, Cooled Grating Spectrometer 3 for the UK Infra-Red Telescope (UKIRT) in Hawaii and the space based Long Wavelength Spectrometer for the Infrared Space Observatory (ISO), an ESA mission launched in 1995. BillG played a very large part in the production, modelling, testing of both instruments and analysis of data: getting his hands ‘dirty’ when necessary, providing support when needed and being around to discuss problems which arose.

Bill loved to teach, especially his beloved Solar Physics (yr3 and yr4). Despite being involved in IR astronomy he still wrote papers and attended symposia and conference on Solar Physics.

He also had many PhD students while working in the IR Group who all appreciated his guidance.

He was Departmental Astronomy Tutor twice, once in the 70’s for some years and then again in the late 1990’s to early 2000’s. He stepped down from that position in August 2002.

Bill was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the late 1990’s, but with care this was kept at a slow development rate for many years.

I enjoyed working with Bill enormously. He was easy to get on with, a pleasure to have around in every area we worked together in, whether it was balloon campaigns in Texas, ISO meetings with our European collaborators or just working at UCL on a daily basis.

The last time I met up with him was in July 2010. We had invited him to our wedding in Essex and one of his daughters, Suzanne, came too as his driver and our guest. He recognised almost all the people from UCL and RAL we had invited. And needless to say we have pictures of him from that day. He left in the late afternoon as he was easily tired at that stage of his illness.

I think everyone he met during his time at UCL will think of him fondly. I know I certainly do.

He died peacefully in a nursing home on the 12th February 2015.

He is survived by his wife Cecelia and their family.

The funeral will be on the 27th February at 9:45 am at Beckenham Crematorium.

Ian Furniss