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Peter Lund 1926-2023

An Obituary by Roderick A Smith

Peter Lund, Engineering Science Alumni

Image by Tom Kershaw (Peter's grandson)

Peter Lund had a long and happy life, defined by his home, the Old School House in Binsey, his church, the Oxford University Engineering Science Department, his college (Christ Church), Scouting, and folk and Morris dancing. Latterly, he was befriended by a group of Japanese ladies, who, at regular intervals, prepared adventurous lunches for him. My wife was one of that group and that was how I came to be reconnected with him after being an undergraduate in the Department from 1967 to 70.

Peter will be known to generations of alumni through his handbook, Engineering Tables and Data (1972), which has run to various editions and is still much used. Of his co-authors, Joe Todd died in 2006, Alastair Howatson just last year, so Peter was the last of the trio until he too passed away on August 30th this year. “I am as old as the Queen”, he was fond of telling me. He worked in an era when research did not necessarily intrude on good teaching and administration.

Peter Lund
Peter Lund at the Department of Engineering Science

Peter was born on 15 March 1926, the only child of loving, serious minded, parents in Leicester. At an early age he taught himself how to strip and reassemble Sturmey Archer gears in his father's garage, the beginnings of very practical skills. At the age of 10 he entered Loughborough Grammar School, where a fellow pupil was Gerry McCrum, much later of Hartford and Oxford Engineering, who died in 2013. Despite his early age, he won many school prizes and started at Oxford in 1943, aged 17. He graduated after an accelerated war time course lasting two years, and as was then usual was interviewed, or directed, by C P Snow about his future. He went to work at Meto-Vic, for about two years. He returned to Oxford as a Demonstrator, in which role he continued until elected to a Lectureship at Christ Church in 1957. After several renewals, he obtained a Studentship (Fellowship) in 1963 which he held until his retirement in 1993 when he was made Emeritus.

But these bare bones tell us nothing of his warm nature and the esteem in which he was held by many groups of people. He had a long and happy marriage to Heather, met during Scouting activities in 1947. By all accounts, The Old School House in Binsey was an open house to his many friends. He had four children and nine grandchildren. His youngest son Tim predeceased him shortly before Peter’s passing, but left some notes on which I have been able to draw. He wrote, "he was just the sort of person you would want on a committee – wanting it to be effective, sensitive to the feelings of others, happy to contribute when he had something to say, but quite without ego". These qualities were displayed during his long tenure of the secretaryship of the Society of Oxford Engineers from 1991-2004. His work in the community, for example, supporting the best kept village competition was marked by the award of the MBE in 2007.

Heather passed in 2002 and in subsequent years Peter became increasingly immobile, but, with help, he remained in Binsey until the end. Generous comments from many quarters arrived when news of his death spread. To say he was well liked and admired by all is not an exaggeration. Many generations of Oxford Engineering Alumni will have benefitted from his kindly advice. No better tribute can be made then to say, he has lived a life which is an object lesson to us all.

Roderick A Smith 6 November 2023

Formerly Chief Scientific Advisor Department for Transport
Past President Institution of Mechanical Engineers
Future Rail Research Centre Imperial College London