Roy Johnston

Our dear friend and colleague, Professor Roy Johnston, 58, has passed away after a long illness.

Roy Luigi Johnston was born in Aberdeen in 1961 to an Italian mother, Almerisa and Scottish father, Harry. His family moved to Rugby and then Stechford in Birmingham when Beeching closed the railways as Harry was a train driver. He attended Saltley Grammar School and was thinking of History at first as a subject for University but had a very inspirational chemistry teacher so changed course to Chemistry.

Roy Johnston received his BA (1983) and D.Phil. (1986) from the University of Oxford, where he was a member of St. Catherine's College. His D.Phil., on theoretical aspects of cluster molecules, was carried out under the supervision of Professor Mike Mingos, FRS. From 1987-89, he was a SERC/NATO postdoctoral fellow in the U.S.A., spending a year each at Cornell University (working with Professor Roald Hoffmann (Nobel laureate) on theoretical solid state chemistry) and the University of Arizona (working with Professor Dennis Lichtenberger on gas phase and surface photoelectron spectroscopy).

He returned to the U.K. in 1989 as a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Sussex, where he collaborated with Professor John Murrell on the development and application of many-body potentials for modelling clusters, surfaces and solids. He was appointed to a lectureship in inorganic chemistry at the University of Birmingham in 1995 and was promoted to senior lecturer in 2002 and reader in 2003. He was appointed Professor of Computational Chemistry in 2006.

Roy was a stalwart of Chemistry at Birmingham and his name suffuses the School. He was a great, world-leading scientist, a good listener, generous with his time, and passionate about helping others. The extent and quality of his various collaborations and the warmth of feeling associated with him is a testament to this. He also occupied numerous leadership roles, keen to re-invest his experience back into the School, College and University. His roles included Deputy Head of School, Director of Research, Chair of the College Postgraduate Research Committee, and representing the College on the University’s Graduate School Management Board.

We will all remember Roy for his quiet, dignified manner, his gentle and precise reasoning, his warmth, his love of cricket, history, cryptic crosswords and the legendary annual student and staff BBQ he and Suzanne hosted. He will be remembered by everyone for being a lovely colleague, teacher, leader, and friend. Suzanne and his 2 children Lewis and Amelia will remember wonderful family holidays to Devon and Sussex and more recently trips to the sea in West Bay, Dorset to visit family.

Roy Johnston, Professor of Computational Chemistry, born 30 April 1961; died 16 August 2019.