Professor S. Desmond Smith OBE, FRS, FRSE, FinstP

Des has made significant contributions to the physics of optical coatings, magneto-optics of semiconductors, satellite meteorology, infrared spectroscopy and fluorescence technology and their applications. His work has led to highlights such as the tuneable spin-flip Raman laser, which gives the highest resolution molecular gas spectra, and the invention of the carbon dioxide Selective Chopper for the Nimbus 4 satellite temperature sounder — launched in 1970, with derivatives on NASA planetary probes. These included special band pass interference filters.

In 1970, he left the University of Reading for the Chair of Physics at Heriot-Watt University, where he created a research-driven physics department from a green field. He transferred his Reading research group to Edinburgh and introduced optoelectronics to the Scottish universities, becoming Chairman of the Scottish Optoelectronics Association (SOA).

The Riccarton campus at Heriot Watt University included Britain’s first University “Research Park” where he founded the first spin-off SME, Edinburgh Instruments Ltd (EI). EI has since become one of the world’s largest manufacturers of leading edge spectroscopic instrumentation and gas detection solutions.

Des founded Edinburgh Biosciences Ltd in 2013, which exploits advances in optical science and technology in the area of bioscience applications.

Career History

Emeritus Professor of Physics, Head of Department, 1970-96, Dean of Science 1981-1984, Heriot-Watt University

BSc, DSc Bristol, PhD Reading, Hon DSc Heriot-Watt

Founder, Edinburgh Instruments

231 publications, 2 books, Infra-red Physics OUP (with J.T.Houghton) and Optoelectronics Prentice Hall.

Advisory Council Science and Technology, Cabinet Office 1985-88.

Joint PI “Remote Sounding of Atmospheric Temperatures from Satellites” – the Selective Chopper Radiometer for Nimbus 4 1970.

First Chairman Scottish Optoelectronics Association 1996-98.

Numerous committees, several prizes including Royal Medal, RSE, 2011