Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Obituary - Sandy Grassie - 1935-2012: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Obituary - Sandy Grassie - 1935-2012: News

Article excerpt

Two things made Sandy Grassie happy: stretching the limits of his ability and imparting knowledge to others. His struggles with the first, the academic-turned-schoolteacher said, meant that he particularly valued the importance of the second.

Alexander Grassie was born in Aberdeen in April 1935. When teenaged Sandy displayed a talent for French, his teachers attempted to persuade him to study the subject at university. But French came too naturally to him: he wanted more of a challenge.

He opted to read physics at the University of Aberdeen and then went on to Queens' College, Cambridge, pursuing a PhD in experimental low-temperature physics.

While at Cambridge, he was invited for dinner by an old schoolfriend. The table was crowded and included various student-newspaper editors. When one guest, Tricia Franklin, turned off the heater in the corner, Sandy smiled at her. "I think there's enough hot air in the room already," he said. They married a year later and went on to have three children: Andrew, Robert and Kirsten.

In 1962, Dr Grassie was invited to become one of the founder members of the physics department at the newly established University of Sussex. Tall and broad-chested, he exuded a confidence that was not always backed up by reality. "If I can do something, then I don't feel it's worth anything," he would say. And so he pushed himself to the limits of his ability, deliberately seeking out apparently insoluble problems.

As a result, he understood how difficult learning could be. …

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