Obituary – Prof Tom McLeish, FRS

Obituary – Prof Tom McLeish, FRS

We at Christians in Science are deeply saddened by the death of our brother and colleague, Professor Tom McLeish. On behalf of the Trustees, the Executive Committee and all the members of Christians in Science we wish to express our thanks to God for Tom’s life and work and to pray that his wife and family will know the comfort of God’s presence and the peace that only he can give in their grief. We write not only because Tom was a long-standing member of CiS but because we recognized his immense contribution to the field of Science and Religion. He was an outstanding and innovative scientist, highly respected in the scientific community but also a profound thinker and gifted communicator on issues relating to Scripture and Science. Above all, he was a gracious and enthusiastic Christian whose life and work touched many lives both personally and through his speaking and writing. Therefore, it is perhaps more fitting and honouring to the memory of this remarkable man that, as an organization, we simply endorse the following obituary by Dr Rhoda Hawkins as one whose life was so personally enhanced by all that Tom gave to us and to the world.

Professor Paul Ewart

Executive Chairman, Christians in Science


It is with deep gratitude and sadness that I write these words following the death of my PhD supervisor and mentor, Tom. Someone I looked up to, respected, learnt from, was inspired by and worked closely with.

Tom was truly exceptional. He lived life to the full with incredible energy and enthusiasm as a natural leader and visionary. His list of achievements is staggering. With a PhD from Cambridge he was a lecturer in physics in Sheffield before becoming a Professor in Leeds at a particularly young age where he led academic-industrial partnerships in polymer physics. He was Pro-Vice Chancellor for research at Durham and then Professor of Natural Philosophy at York. Along the way he initiated and led numerous projects with his characteristic enthusiasm. His nurture of young colleagues influenced and encouraged numerous careers. This was particularly highlighted when he became a fellow of the Royal Society and chose to celebrate with his current and former PhD students and reflect the credit of his own success onto his junior colleagues. In my own work with him we embarked on a new adventure in biological physics applying concepts from theoretical polymer physics to proteins. As a scientist, Tom’s inexhaustible optimism swept us along with him to tackle ambitious questions with wisdom and creativity. I remember him saying he wanted to contribute to a new field before he knew too much – whist he still had enough fresh innocence to be freely creative. His passion for interdisciplinary work and confidence to try things were infectious. His wide ranging intellectual interests made him a rare modern polymath. His academic publications range from theoretical physics to medieval history. His love of music and poetry resonated with his creative spirit in science. Tom always kept his fun childlike delight of discovery and seemingly infinite amounts of energy. It’s impossible to think of him in any other way than full of life, heart and soul.

Tom was so much more than a professor. His deep Christian faith shone out openly to all his colleagues. He spoke and wrote much on theology of science, for example his book on Faith and Wisdom in Science. He served as a reader in the Anglican church and co-founded the ECLAS project (Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science). He was on his way to speak at the Lambeth conference when he received a phone call with the shocking news of his blood test results. Even in his illness and death Tom’s Christian faith shone through and his remarkable openness to share touched thousands of people. Tom has been taken from us whilst still in the prime of his life and career but as he enjoys his eternal rest, countless people he has inspired will continue his work on this Earth for many years to come.

Dr Rhoda J Hawkins