Obituary

Peter Edward Hodgson (1928-2008)

"We have lost a great scientist, friend and person, a philosopher whose gentle ways, deep insights and infectious enthusiasm enriched our lives. We are saddened by his departure, but will retain warmth in our hearts forever as a result of having known him."

Peter E. Hodgson, Lecturer in Nuclear Physics and Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, passed away on 8 December 2008 aged 80. He was born in London in 1928 and graduated in Physics from Imperial College in 1948.

After receiving his BSc he began research as an experimentalist under the guidance of Sir George Thomson during which he was one of the first to identify the K+ meson and its decay into three pions giving, at the time, the most accurate value of its mass. For this work Peter collected his PhD in 1951, thereafter turning to nuclear physics with H.S.W Massey at University College London. There he studied the scattering of neutrons by alpha particles, an investigation which, when he moved to Reading, led him to explain the emission of alpha particles by heavy nuclei in nuclear emulsions bombarded with 100 MeV protons. This work raised the interest of Professor R. Peierls and Sir Denys Wilkinson who, in 1958, invited Peter to Oxford, where he become Head of the Nuclear Physics Theoretical Group and Fellow of Corpus Christi College, staying there until his retirement.

During his early years at Oxford, Peter was awarded the degree of DSc by the University of London. He also published several review papers and books, including The Optical Model of Elastic Scattering, which for many years became reference texts for scientists working in the field. In addition to approximately 350 original articles he wrote eleven textbooks which have been an invaluable source of inspiration to two generations of nuclear physicists.

Peter also spent much of his life devoting time to studying and promoting the impact of science on society and its moral obligation. He was an active member of the Atomic Scientists' Association serving on its Council from 1952 to 1959 and editing its journal from 1953 to 1955. In later years he became President of the Science Secretariat of Pax Romana, the bulletin of which he edited. He encouraged Catholic scientists to integrate their studies and belief and to publicise their work effectively, emphasizing the need for the Church to be thorough and professional with regard to the use of scientific advice and comment. He worked closely with the Templeton Foundation, the Newman Association and many other organisations to promote the integration of science and religion.

Only two months before his passing away, Peter wrote a letter to his friends discussing ideas for new courses on 'Physics for Philosophers', 'Philosophy of Science' and 'Effects of Science on Society' at the Gregorian University in Rome. He was writing new books: one on 'Energy, The Environment and Climate Change' and another on Galileo, which should appear soon.

"Peter was always willing to give guidance and assistance, and lead by example. He was also the perfect gentleman."

"He was extremely kind and caring and at the same time inspiring to a large number of young researchers. In Peter's going we have lost a precious gift of God and I have lost a great friend. He was like an older brother to me, advising, helping and inspiring me at every stage of my career. Whatever I am today Peter has made a huge contribution in all of this. My whole family is indebted to him."

Peter addressed the Vatican's 'Jubilee for Scientists' conference in May 2000 and was consultant to the Pontifical Consilium for Culture.

Peter achieved eminence in his scientific work and strove to play his part in the life of the Church to the full. All who had the great fortune of knowing him personally will sorely miss such a great scientist and a great man, husband, father and grandfather.

Peter is survived by his wife, Anne, and his four children, Louise, Mark, Dominic and Julian.

May he Rest in Peace.

(An obituary compiled, by Louise Martine [née Hodgson] from some of the many wonderful messages that Peter's family has received from colleagues across the world: Professor Ettore Gadioli, University of Milano; Professor Werner Richter, University of Stellenbosch; Professor Wasi Haider, Aligah Muslim University; Professor Anton Antonov, Institute for Nuclear Research and Nuclear Energy, Sofia.)

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