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Professor Ronald McCarroll, BSc, PhD (died 14 March 2021, aged 86)


Obituary submitted by Ronald’s colleagues from Sorbonne Université Paris, University of Bordeaux and the Paris-Meudon Observatory


Ronald McCarroll studied in Queen’s University Belfast between 1951 and 1957 and completed his PhD under the supervision of Sir David Bates. He started his scientific career very early, with a first publication in 1955 at the age of 21, a career that was to be long and fruitful. He was a lecturer at Queen’s University when he married Huguette and then decided to live in France.


In 1965, Ronald was appointed by the French CNRS to the Paris Observatory at Meudon and became the youngest Research Director in France. He was elected Professor at the University of Bordeaux in 1971 and created the Laboratory of Astrophysics. He spent fifteen years there, before being elected Professor at the University of Pierre and Marie Curie in Paris in 1986. He taught atomic and molecular physics, especially the physics of atomic collisions, his field of expertise, and created a corresponding graduate program. Ronald was a particularly generous and encouraging professor. Generations of students remember him with respect and fondness, even after his retirement in 2002. He joined in 2004 the Laboratoire de Chimie Physique-Matière et Rayonnement as an Emeritus Professor where he actively pursued his scientific work.


Ronald had a deep understanding of physics and its applications to astrophysics. He was an expert in theory of atomic collisions. One of his first publications with David Bates in 1958 (“Electron capture in slow collisions”*) remains a basic paper in this field. He was one of the first to making use of computers for theoretical modelling. He served on the scientific committees of the International Conference on Photonic, Electronic and Atomic Collisions (ICPEAC) and of the European Conference on the Dynamics of Molecular Systems (MOLEC). He was nominated “outstanding referee” by Physical Review.


Ronald was not only a brilliant scientist with an open and curious mind but also a man of culture. He had a vivid memory of attending the last recital given by the fabulous contralto Kathleen Ferrier in Belfast in 1953. He enthusiastically discussed James Joyce’s “Ulysses” to the few people who succeeded in reading enough of the book. All his colleagues and students will remember Ronald for his humanity and will miss him profoundly.


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