Professor Greyham F Bryant died October 17, 2020, aged 89, after a short illness.
Greyham Bryant, whose first degree was in Mathematics, joined the Control Group in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering circa 1958 to engage in collaborative research with BISRA (British Iron and Steel Research Association), his previous employer. In addition to his own research, he engaged constructively and enthusiastically in the vigorous and exciting group discussions on the revolution then taking place in control theory.
His impact on the group led to him being recruited in 1967 to lead a major research programme on Cold Steel Rolling. Five parties were involved in this project, the Steel Company of Wales, GEC to implement the scheme, Imperial College to provide the analysis and design, SRC to provide university research funds and the Ministry of Technology for industrial funds.
The Treasury baulked at the expense, but with the help of Jeremy Bray — a scientifically well-informed MP — the research programme was approved at an extraordinary meeting held in the House of Commons in September 1967. The research program was a great success and led to the installation of a fifth stand at the Abbey Works of the Steel Company of Wales, based on advanced computer control and real time Kalman filtering to estimate sheet thickness. The final report showed that a substantial improvement had been achieved by the use of modern control theory.
The automation techniques he pioneered for cold steel rolling were highly influential and adopted for use in steel mills across the world. The user guide for implementation of his approach came to be known as the Little Black Book (in playful reference to the more famous Little Red Book of Chairman Mao).
Subsequently, Greyham was a principal investigator on a substantial collaborative grant to the Departments of Chemical Engineering and Electrical and Electronic Engineering to form a Systems Research Centre, which survives to this day as the College’s highly successful Centre for Process Systems Engineering. Greyham initiated the Centre’s activity on supply chain management, sponsored by Tesco and other major players in the food supply industry.
Greyham’s distinctive characteristics in his work were independence of mind, total immersion in his research area of current interest, and self-belief. Only such a person could have, throughout his career, have entered new research areas and, so many times, changed the state-of-the-art.
He could be combative in creating funding opportunities and space for his research. But on a personal level he was warm and empathetic. He was very supportive of his researchers and, to many of them, was a father figure. He had a deep concern for social justice and believed fairness and a concern for others should be a guiding principle for others, including politicians and entrepreneurs who, in his opinion, so often failed to do so.
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Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering
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