In memoriam: Professor David R. Burton

Professor David R. Burton

Image of lit candles


It is with great sadness that the university has learned of the passing of Professor David R. Burton. David was an outstanding academic and even in his passing on 30 December 2018 after a long and courageous fight with cancer he was an inspiration to us all, fundraising and increasing public understanding to the last.

David enrolled at Liverpool Polytechnic as an HND student in Mechanical Engineering in 1976. He was promoted to the degree course after one year and graduated with flying colours in 1980. By this time he had found an interest through his final year project in Surface Finish Engineering. This introduced David to Dr John Turner Atkinson the first PhD in Optical Engineering at the Polytechnic. For the next decade this partnership was very successful in Engineering and medical research gaining a growing reputation and impressive funding from UK research bodies.

David completed his PhD in The Coherent and Electro-Optics Research Group (CEORG) led by Professor Michael Lalor from Mechanical Engineering and Professor Allan Hobson from Electrical and Electronic Engineering. David’s PhD was analysing slip in high speed roller bearings using Laser Doppler Anemometry.

Recruited to the academic staff in 1987, David was rapidly promoted to Principal Lecturer, Reader and Professor all before the age of 40. David was Director of the School of Engineering for five years at LJMU from 1997 to 2002, and then inaugural Director of the General Engineering Research Institute (GERI) until his retirement in 2016.

David was not only a highly respected and hardworking academic, but enjoyed his family life and a large number of external interests. One of his last interests was in drones, which was turned into a large scale European research project named DigiArt and the first MSc in drones in the UK.

His academic legacy is an important scientific contribution through over 110 published papers, and ongoing funded EU research through DigiArt. Many researchers and colleagues will have benefited from working with David who successfully supervised 42 PhD students, and via his wisdom at the GERI Friday morning PhD student seminars which he loved.

David’s research contributions led to extremely high grades in the UK government research evaluations which led to a Grade 5 in General Engineering RAE96 and another Grade 5 in RAE2001.The only universities with higher ratings in general engineering over the two assessment periods were Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial College London.

David had a good sense of humour, being a born and bred Scouser, although he cherished his Welsh heritage. He was a very positive person, so please remember him as he would have liked, by cherishing the many happy memories various people will have of David’s outstanding achievements and contributions to the continuing evolution of LJMU.

David has been supported through his career by his loving wife Julie, and his son Owen who is a music composer, and daughter Laura, a mathematician.

The funeral will take place on Monday 21 January with a cremation at Landican at 10.30am, followed by a service at St Andrews Church, Meols, Wirral, at around 11.00am. All are invited to both.


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