For a long time John Gunn was a significant force in the British university system, especially in the

science research provision.

He was professor of theoretical physics at Glasgow University from 1949. By the mid-fifties, research into particle physics, that is the investigation of the structure and the forces between the smallest constituents of matter such as the electron, proton, and neutron, had grown into a separate discipline away from its origin in nuclear physics.

Glasgow physics had an electron accelerator which accelerated electrons to high speed and let them collide with protons and neutrons in matter, the observed results when analysed giving particle physics information. There were three particle accelerators in the UK, but a need for more advanced particle accelerators became apparent, leading to the construction of a proton accelerator at the Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory near Harwell and somewhat later to an electron accelerator at Daresbury in the north of England.

Gunn took a notable part in the country-wide planning which led to these developments. It was perhaps a second best for Gunn that the electron accelerator was sited in the north of England rather than Scotland, but he and his colleague, the experimentalist Professor Philip Dee (developer of air-to-ground radar in the second world war) obtained finance to build a different type of electron accelerator for nuclear physics research sited near Glasgow; this had a long and successful research life.

Gunn's influence increased with his appointment to the Science Research Council (SRC) of the Department of Education and Science from 1968 through 1972. At that time the question of building a very much bigger European proton accelerator at the CERN Laboratory, Geneva, had arisen.

The Nuclear Physics Board of the SRC oversaw both nuclear physics and particle physics, and advice to the government on CERN came mainly via that board and the SRC. Gunn was board chairman (1970-72) at the time the government took the positive decision that Britain should join in the new CERN project. That project was an enormous success for European particle physics, putting it for the first time on a level with American accelerator efforts in that field.

Gunn became a member of the University Grants Committee, 1973-1981. From 1973 through 1976 he was chairman of its equipment sub-committee, which dealt with all university requests for equipment money, both in science and arts subjects; demands from the latter were increasing with the rise of computing. In that role he gained and organised information which persuaded the government to increase the grant to something like a proper level, using a model devised to reduce the subjective element in the assessment of need. He was appointed a CBE in 1976.

He then became chairman of the physical sciences (physics, chemistry, and geology) sub-committee of the UGC from 1976 to the end of 1981.

John Gunn was knighted in the New Year's Honours of 1982. He was not the first member of his well-known Glasgow family to be so honoured. His uncle, his father's brother James, an artist most highly regarded for his portraiture, became Sir James Gunn.

John Gunn, born in 1916, went from Glasgow Academy to Glasgow University, graduating in 1937 in mathematics and natural philosophy, winning the Logan prize as the best arts student of the year. Immediately after he went to Cambridge, that being then world leader in physics research.He gained a further mathematics degree (and the Mayhew prize) and began theoretical research into order-disorder transitions in condensed matter. But the war intervened and Gunn was chosen to join a small selected group of physicists at the Admiralty led by Professor Harrie Massey. The group included such people as Francis Crick, later the co-discoverer with James Watson of the structure of DNA.

Gunn was latterly in charge of the scientific section, developing firing systems for mines.

He married Betty Russum in 1944 who predeceased him in January this year.

In the midst of his war work in 1943 he was elected to a research fellowship at St Johns College, Cambridge. After the war, instead of taking up this fellowship, he accepted a lectureship in applied mathematics at Manchester University. In his year there he gave 10 undergraduate lectures a week and produced two papers on supersonic flow and turbulence. His move in 1946 to a lectureship at University College London, where he joined Massey again, signalled the transfer of his research interests to nuclear physics and particle physics. This may well have been recognised in his appointment in early 1949, at the age of 32, to the Cargill Chair at Glasgow, where Professor Philip Dee was strongly developing experimental physics in those subjects. John Gunn held no doctorate because of wartime circumstances, but his abilities and scientific grasp had evidently made a big impression. Professorships

were then rare and prized.

Also he was very sharp and clever - but with an apprehension of others; people who only met him once or twice often commented on this feeling that he gave. It showed itself in various ways - the clarity and interest of his undergraduate lectures was well known. Another of his strengths, acknowledged by sophisticated judges, was his swiftness and accuracy in mathematics.

With his professorship there came administrative and pastoral responsibilities. For some years he also continued to be active in research, but then, at the age of 40, came a change which set the rest of his life. He became increasingly involved in the development of national and international programmes in accelerators for high-energy particle physics. Another aspect is that he gave strong support to the continuing Glasgow project to detect gravity waves coming from the cosmos when it was initiated by Ronald Drever in the sixties, providing much of the early impulsion to the present international work. And about that time Gunn was able to recruit academic staff to form three distinct theoretical research groups.

As professor he, of course, occupied a significant position in the natural philosophy department. (This time-hallowed title was later abandoned for the more demotic physics and astronomy.) In the department and the university he was liked and much respected; indeed by some experienced people, both within and without Glasgow, he was regarded as a mentor.

Gunn was a member of Glasgow University Court 1969-1977, and one of the first two vice-principals, 1972-1977.

He was devoted to music, particularly in playing the cello or in going to concerts. As a Scottish professor of his generation it would have been slightly unnatural not to play golf. In fact he was a keen golfer. An indulgence for many years was chess at lunchtime.

Through the conferment of a number of honorary degrees he became a doctor; the last of these was in November 2001, in the University of Glasgow's 550th anniversary celebrations, when he became a doctor of Science of Glasgow University. He had been a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh since 1959. From 1972 to 1982 he was the benevolent head of a remarkably happy department, but retired early in 1982.

He leaves a son, Michael, who is a professor of theoretical physics at Birmingham University, a daughter-in-law, Nicola, and a grandaughter, Eva.

John Currie Gunn; born September 13, 1916,

died July 26, 2002.

Prof R G Moorhouse