Scotsman Obituaries: Professor Anne Neville OBE, peerless engineering researcher

Professor Anne Neville OBE, FRS, FRSE, FREng, FIMechE. Born: March 1970. Died: 2 July 2022

Anne Neville grew up in south-west Scotland and after secondary education at Maxwelltown High School in Dumfries, attended Glasgow University where she studied Mechanical Engineering, graduating BEng in 1992 and PhD in 1995. Her thesis concerned the corrosion of engineering materials in marine environments.

The same year, she was appointed a lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, where she immediately impressed with her energy, personal modesty and outstanding organisational skills. Anne was quickly able to attract funding, build a substantial research team and engage in a wide range of academic collaborations.

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Promotions to Reader (1999) and Professor (2002) followed. In 1999 Anne was awarded the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Makdougall Brisbane Prize for particular distinction in the promotion of scientific research. Shockingly, she was the first woman to receive this important award that dates back to 1859.

Anne Neville was as respected as she was popular (Picture: Bob Reuben)
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Also in 1999, Anne was awarded a five-year EPSRC Advanced Fellowship to investigate the joint effects of mechanical and electrochemical processes on the durability of cermet (ceramic-metal) coatings.

It was during this period that Anne’s interests extended to include flow assurance in the oil and gas industries. In 2003 she moved to Leeds University where she was the Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Technologies and Professor of Tribology and Surface engineering. Despite leading a large research group at Leeds, Anne maintained her collaborations in Scotland and connection to Heriot-Watt University, which awarded her an honorary doctorate in 2017. A further honorary doctorate was awarded by Glasgow University in 2019.

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Anne Neville was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE) in 2005. Her other numerous honours include election to the Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng) in 2010 and election to the Royal Society of London (FRS) in 2017. She was awarded an OBE for services to engineering, also in 2017.

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In 2016 Anne became the first woman to be awarded the Institution of Mechanical Engineers James Clayton prize, the Institution’s most prestigious prize, awarded annually for exceptional contribution to mechanical engineering and related science, technology and invention. She was awarded the Leverhulme Medal in 2016 for “revealing diverse physical and chemical processes at interacting interfaces, emphasising significant synergy between tribology and corrosion”.

Anne’s career of increasing achievement was accompanied by life with cancer over many years. Anne bore her illness and associated treatments with courage and extraordinary grace: she was not one to let such things hold her back. She finally retired from her posts at Leeds University in 2020 and in retirement continued to enjoy life with her family.

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Anne was one of the most liked members of academic staff at Heriot-Watt University, popular with all she met. She was unassuming, was always ready to take on any task that came her way, had a great sense of humour and enjoyed telling self-effacing anecdotes. In her period at Heriot-Watt she was one of the small band who started their working day very early and, like most, usually arrived casually dressed. One weekend, she met one of her neighbours, who had observed her leaving in her elderly hot-hatch. The neighbour asked her where she worked and when told, because of the early hour, mistook Anne for a cleaner.

Anne will be missed by all who knew her and had the privilege of working with her. She achieved twice as much as most of us, even in the short time that she had.

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Anne is survived by her husband Mark and daughter Rachel.


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