Today at Berkeley Lab

In Memoriam: Former NCEM Director Kenneth Westmacott (1930-2014)

westmacott-smallKenneth Harry Westmacott passed away on July 30 at the age of 84. From 1986-1992, he served as director of LBNL’s National Center for Electron Microscopy, which he helped establish in the late 70s and early 80’s by leading the project that brought the nation’s highest-voltage microscope to LBNL. His death is a great loss for the staff and users of NCEM and for his many friends in the scientific community.

Ken grew up in wartime England in the small town of Wantage near Oxford. He began his scientific career at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell, where he worked in Smallman’s Basic Radiation group. By applying the newly-developed technique of electron microscopy to the study of defects in metals, he became a widely-known expert in secondary defects in materials. One of his earliest papers, published in 1958 in Philosophical Magazine, showed the first direct evidence of dislocation loops in quenched aluminum, and later became a citation classic. By the time he received his PhD degree from Birmingham University, he had already published a series of pioneering papers on defect structures in high-purity metals and alloys.

He first came to the US to work with his advisor Ray Smallman at Stanford where he met his wife-to-be Judith, settled down and started a family. He took a job at the China Lake Naval research lab, which granted him leave to complete his PhD at Birmingham University. In the late 1970’s, he came to Berkeley to help Gareth Thomas make the case for a powerful new high voltage microscope (HVEM) to study radiation effects. This instrument, together with the Atomic Resolution Microscopy, formed the foundation of NCEM, which was formally dedicated as a DOE user facility in 1983.

During his service as director of NCEM from 1986-1992, Ken put the center on a solid foundation and established NCEM in the spirit of DOE’s promise – an open and supportive facility with world-class instrumentation and research as a shared resource for the scientific community. With his warm personality and unbureaucratic approach he also made NCEM a model work environment at LBL and a magnet for leading microscopists from around the world.

“Ken Westmacott had a deep and lasting impact on NCEM,” said Andy Minor, currently the acting director of NCEM. “As a previous director of the facility and leader of the high voltage microscope project, he laid the foundation for NCEM’s capability in in-situ electron microscopy – the observation of dynamic processes such as crystal growth or deformation on the nanoscale. This research direction became a cornerstone of electron microscopy at Berkeley and continues to be an important tool for understanding the role of defects in how materials behave.”

In addition to Ken’s impactful scientific contribution to the field of electron microscopy at Berkeley, he is remembered by his friends and colleagues as an unusually kind and caring man with a positive outlook, a great sense of humor, and interests ranging from golf to flying, philosophy and general science. He lost his long-time battle with cancer only eleven days after the death of his beloved wife Judith. Ken is survived by a sister, his two sons and five grandchildren. A memorial will be held in Santa Barbara at the end of this month.