Development & Alumni Relations Office 

Dr Norman Richard Daly (August 1, 2014)

Obituary provided by family member

Norman Richard Daly, late of Portaferry Road, Newtownards and formerly of Sonning-on-Thames, England, died peacefully at hospital on 01 August 2014, aged 86.

Dr Daly graduated with a First Class BA in Physics in 1949 and with a PhD in 1953. He lectured at Queen’s for a number of years before taking up a post in the South of England.

He left Belfast in 1957 for the UK Atomic Energy Authority to work at the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE) near Aldermaston in Berkshire, where he would spend his entire working life.

Dr Daly quickly made a name for himself in the field of mass spectrometry through the development of a sensitive ion detector, which became known as the ‘Daly Detector’ (W).

In this detector mass separated ions are passed through a slit and deflected onto a metal knob releasing secondary electrons which are accelerated by a strong electric field onto a phosphor scintillator from which the photons produced are detected by a photomultiplier tube.

Having become Head of the Mass Spectrometry Department between 1962 and 1973, six patents relating to ion detection and mass spectrometry were awarded in his name.

In the mid-1970s, shortly after AWRE became part of the Ministry of Defence, Norman became involved with plans for a major new research project utilising a high power laser to explore conditions similar to those created during the operation of a nuclear weapon.

This resulted in the building of a double beam large aperture Neodymium glass laser (HELEN), each beam delivering 500 Joules in 1 nanosecond. This facility was formally opened by the Queen in 1979. 

As Superintendent for Plasma Experiments with a staff of approximately 80 scientists and technicians, Norman became responsible for the subsequent experimental programme using the laser as a driver for high energy density research, generating matter in the plasma regime at temperatures exceeding 100 electron volts (approaching sun-like temperatures) and pressures over a Gigabar.

He continued in this role developing strong links with similar programmes in the USA until his formal retirement from the superintendent's post in 1988, after which he returned to the programme in a support role for another three years, finally retiring in March 1991 due to ill health.

He is survived by his wife Delma, son Richard, daughter Alison (Langguth) and grandchildren Richard and Anna.


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