Imperial College London

Colin Vickery 1935 - 2021

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Colin Vickery

Dr Colin Vickery, who retired from the Department nearly two decades ago, passed away on 22nd February 2021.

Colin joined the Department as a young lecturer around 1960, after completing his PhD on the switching theory of transistors — not long after their invention. He was responsible for teaching the “modern” subject of digital circuits throughout the 1960s and 70s. Colin was popular among the undergraduate students and was particularly good at solving students’ circuit problems in laboratories.

In 1982, he was invited by the Head of Department Bruce Sayers to form the Microprocessor Application Group (MAG), which he led for many years.

He unfortunately suffered a serious stroke which cut short his academic career but continued his involvement with the Department, including exam setting and marking, and was a regular visitor with his wife Kate.

Colin is survived by Kate, who was his main carer since his stroke, two daughters Helen and Laura, a son Simon, and two granddaughters. He will be dearly missed.

“He made things, and they worked”

Professor Bob Spence

In his long career, Colin applied himself to an enormous range of engineering projects in addition to inspired and much appreciated teaching. But I valued his friendship as a person, and that is what I shall briefly recall here.

Our friendship goes back to 1953 when we were PhD students. Later we were appointed to Lectureships, and served the Department through teaching and research. Sadly, Colin suffered a stroke in 1996 but, to nobody’s surprise, continued serving the Department for a further eight years. But rather than try, in this brief note, to summarise Colin’s amazing range of talents — an impossible task — I’ll just pick out a few of the fun bits: that’s how I like to remember him.

I recall, for example, the two of us searching for somewhere to live in London, and visiting a ghastly collection of accommodations until we came across a flat in Notting Hill Gate containing two bedrooms separated by a divider: we quickly agreed that, by folding back the divider, the place would be ideal for throwing parties, of which we organised many over the next two years. I remember his generosity, which even extended to lending me his car so that I could take my friend on a week’s holiday. And I recall his rapport with students which, long after graduation, prompted a mature lady graduate to turn up at an alumnus celebration bearing some coursework from her student days: she suggested, with tongue in cheek, that Colin should have awarded it a B+ rather than a B.

Colin fishingI also remember his humour, which came into play when we hit upon the idea of doing our thesis writing in isolation at the Common Cold Research Unit, at no cost to us. An attractive idea until Colin pointed out that we might catch a nasty cold. His exploratory transfer from fly fishing – in which he was expert – to sea fishing (which he was not), and his apparent ability to speak ‘guinea pig’ to his pets, would take too long to explain, but are some of the many fun moments that I’ll remember.

Colin’s influence was felt by generations of students through, for example, his work on medical electronics in the Engineering in Medicine Section – arguably the forerunner of the Department of Bioengineering – and his extensive involvement with microprocessor applications. But to end, I can do little better than quote a past student who said to me “Colin? A brilliant and much loved teacher and an engineer who made things – and they worked.

Reporters

Professor Peter Y. K. Cheung

Professor Peter Y. K. Cheung
Dyson School of Design Engineering

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 6200
Email: p.cheung@imperial.ac.uk

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Robert Spence

Robert Spence
Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 6259
Email: r.spence@imperial.ac.uk

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