Uncle Buck

PUBLISHED: 16:00 18 May 2015 | UPDATED: 16:00 18 May 2015

EXG JUN 15 Profile

EXG JUN 15 Profile


In this new Essex Life feature celebrating the lives of Essex people who have made a valuable contribution to life in the county, Liz Leatherdale profiles her brother, Dr Anthony Goodwin — inventor, innovator and lecturer

Tributes have recently been paid to an acclaimed scientist, my brother, Dr Anthony Goodwin, who died suddenly aged 53 of diabetic complications.

Known to family, friends and colleagues as Tony, his thesis for his Doctor of Philosophy was on the Thermophysical Properties from the Speed of Sound at University College London. From then on he won awards, was an inventor, innovator, lecturer in his field and also an author — although many of his books I found it hard to fathom the title let alone consider opening the book and reading the contents!

I used to say that Tony had more letters after his name than you could find in a tin of alphabet spaghetti. I always knew he was exceptionally bright, but to me he was always the brother who teased and wound me up — much to the amusement of my husband and son (the latter who referred to him as Uncle Buck).

As a brother, it is only now apparent to me that I was the subject of early scientific experiments, such as when I was in my pram in the front garden at Ipswich Road, Colchester. Tony attempted to discover gravity by pulling me out of the pram. This experiment failed as our mum had strapped me into the pram and so I was left dangling and bouncing a few feet from the ground.

Reaction times, cause and effect were discovered during a joint primary school photo with me at St James’ Primary School in Colchester. Tony, now with an untrendy pudding-basin haircut, pinched me as the camera clicked. The effect can still be seen to this day in a school photo.

Tony, unlike our mum and me, was not a great animal lover. During the long summer school holidays he had many opportunities to experiment on our family’s pet cats, such as reaction when showered and given a blow dry. On another occasion he wanted to try cat food and ate out of a cat’s bowl. Maybe this was to get attention from our mum, as she may have paid more attention to cats than her children.

Our lives did not involve any encouragement to do any sport, which resulted in weight problems. Each term a Saturday afternoon was spent at the Colchester Co-op where tailor-made school shorts were prepared for Tony. As children, Tony and I were subjected to a regular diet of sandwiches, cakes and homemade puddings, often made or brought as treats by doting grandmothers. These foods were most welcome, as mum was not a great cook. At the age of 11, Tony’s hunter-gatherer survival instincts kicked in and further scientific experiments continued as he became a self-taught cook.

Even though Tony spent much of his time living, working and travelling aboard, he always found time to visit his parents in Tiptree. Despite being geographically separated, he was very supportive during the latter years of their lives.

Tony was recently cremated at a service at the Cambridge City Crematorium with the eulogy being read by his friend and colleague Professor Sir William Wakeham.Tony leaves behind a wife, Vanessa, and three children. In memory of Tony, a donation in favour of Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine has been set up.

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