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Reid, Alan Forrest (1931–2013)

Dr Alan Reid AM FAA FTSE, the former Director of the CSIRO Institute of Minerals, Energy and Construction (IMEC), who died in Adelaide in January, aged 81, won acknowledgement from the minerals industry for his support of practical application and accountability in research.

Dr Reid had a long and distinguished career with CSIRO, from 1959 to 1996, starting as a research scientist and serving finally as Director of IMEC from 1988-1996.

Born in New Zealand and with a passion for mountain climbing, he was awarded an MSc from the University of New Zealand (Canterbury) in 1954 and a PhD (1959) and DSc (1970) from the Australian National University (ANU). Apart from a post-doctoral period at Cornell University (1964 to 1966), his entire professional career was spent with CSIRO. In 1972 he was appointed Assistant Chief of the Division of Mineral Chemistry; in 1982, Chief of the Division of Mineral Engineering; in 1984, Director of the Institute of Energy and Earth Resources; in 1988, Director of the Institute of Minerals, Energy and Construction, which comprised seven CSIRO Divisions. Dr Reid was an internationally renowned solid state chemist with an overpowering desire to see his own work and that of others applied to the mineral processing industry and is remembered as a dedicated and visionary leader. He insisted on the highest quality of science but at the same time insisted that the science had application to the minerals and energy industries. One of his greatest successes was to create an environment where great science and direct application came together as a seamless blend. It was his vision and perseverance that led to the establishment of the CSIRO Minerals and Energy complex at Bentley in Western Australia, and the major expansion and further development of CSIRO’s multi-Divisional site at North Ryde in NSW. His early work resulted in patents for titanium processing and he also contributed to the development of commercial solar energy panels though the development of the energy absorber surface, AMCRO. His outstanding achievements lie in the statistics and stereology of mineral particles. This work resulted in the development of what is now commercially available as QEM*SEM which automatically characterises the mineral assemblages from ore bodies using X-ray analysis based on a scanning electron microscope. The mineral reidite, a high-pressure phase of ZrSiO4, is named after him.

After retirement in 1997, he remained in close contact with CSIRO as Chairman of the Board of the Australian Petroleum CRC and as Technical Director of Australian Environmental Resources NL from 1997 onwards. He was awarded many prizes, including the CSIRO Rivett Medal in 1970, the Australian Academy of Science’s Ian Wark Medal and Lecture in 2008 and the Australian Medal in 1993. He was the Royal Chemical Society Lecturer in Australia in 1988. Alan was an active Fellow of our Academy, serving on several committees: the Sectional Committee on Applied Sciences (1984-87); the Sectional Committee on Solid and Fluid Earth and Planetary Sciences (member, 1991-92; Chair, 1993-95); and the Ian William Wark Medal Selection Committee (1989). He also served as a member of the Weizmann Institute Fund (1984 - 88). He became an accomplished painter and his portrayal of sailing boats with full spinnakers in a shimmering sea at Port Vincent will remain as an outstanding tribute to his life. Amongst other things he loved good wine (red), good art, good food and good conversation. He was a dedicated collector of Australian (including aboriginal) contemporary art and was on the Board of the Central School of Art attached to Flinders University.

Dr Ian Gould AM FTSE, Chancellor of the University of South Australia and former head of CRAE and later of CRA R&D, comments:

Alan stood out … for his understanding of how business worked and what it wanted from CSIRO. He was also a believer that contemporary organisational structure had a place at CSIRO and that future funding from industry was a major component for CSIRO and collaboration with them was essential.

He held the view that researchers should not be supporting personal “hobbies” and they should be accountable for their outputs and use of funds. Not all his colleagues liked these ideas and Alan bravely took on the task of reforming the way things were done in his Institute and he pursued changes with characteristic determination. He was a pioneer in this area and the minerals industry appreciated his push for science with practical application and accountability. He was also a forthright champion of the industry, when it had plenty of detractors, and he saw that its vital contribution to the Australian economy justified government backing to improve efficiencies and competiveness and environmental performance.

Original publication

  • ATSE Focus, no 177, April, 2013

Citation details

'Reid, Alan Forrest (1931–2013)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/reid-alan-forrest-27118/text34663, accessed 11 August 2020.

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