Lady Joan Curran, scientist; born February 2, 1916, died February 10, 1999

IT is difficult to separate the lives of Joan and Sam Curran. Although they were of very different temperaments, they made a superb team and partnership and were devoted to each other. Nevertheless, it is very important (and Sam always emphasised this) to note that she was a considerable scientist in her own right and in the dark days of the Second World War she, as did Sam, played an important part in the survival of this country.

Joan Strothers was born in Swansea, where her father was an optician, and from the Swansea Girls High she won an open UK scholarship to Cambridge where she gained an honours degree in physics. She was awarded a Government grant to study for a higher degree and elected to go to the Cavendish Laboratory where she joined Sam Curran in a team under the direction of Philip Dee. But war was in the offing and, in the autumn of 1939, Dee and his team were in Exeter, involved in the development of the proximity fuse. But it was not all work. Joan and Sam married on November 7, 1940.

Soon afterwards they were transferred to the Telecommunications Research Establishment near Swanage, where Sam worked on centimetre radar while Joan joined the Counter Measures Group in an adjoining lab. It was with this group, at Swanage and later at Malvern, that Joan devised the technique, later to be known as ''Operation Window''. She did so by cutting up strips of tinfoil which would be scattered in the path of enemy planes thus disrupting their radar. We learn this not from Joan (for she was the most self-effacing of persons), but from R V Jones in his book Most Secret War.

Perhaps ''Window's'' most spectacular success was when it was dropped with great precision by Lancasters of 617 squadron to synthesise a phantom invasion force of ships in the Straits of Dover on the night of June 5, 1944. This kept the Germans unsure of whether the brunt of the Allied assault would fall on Normandy or in the Pas de Calais.

In June, 1944, the Currans were invited to go to the University of California at Berkeley to take part in ''Operation Manhattan'' - the development of the atomic bomb. It was there that Joan gave birth to a daughter, Sheena, who was, sadly, severely mentally handicapped.

When they returned to Glasgow, Joan and Sam, together with a few friends, set up the Scottish Society for the Parents of Mentally Handicapped Children (Enable) which has now nearly 100 branches with more than 5000 members. Later, when Joan was a member of the Greater Glasgow Health Board and of the Scottish Special Housing Association, the needs of the disabled were always at the front of her mind and she did much to promote their interests. She took a close interest in the work of the Council for Access for the Disabled and helped improve the range of facilities, especially for disabled university students.

When Sam was Principal of Strathclyde University he had a very willing helpmate at his side. She founded the Strathclyde Women's Group and became its president. She promoted the special relationship with the Technical University of Lodz, Poland, and also devoted much care and attention to the children's hospital in that city. Later she established the Lady Curran Endowment Fund for overseas, particularly Polish, students. And she did an enormous amount for many people behind the scenes. Many of us are grateful for many kindnesses, always done without fuss.

In 1987 Strathclyde awarded her the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa. Recently, although gravely ill, she unveiled a plaque in the Barony Hall in Sam's honour and it was revealed to her that the walled garden at Ross Priory, the University of Strathclyde Staff Club on Loch Lomondside, was to be named in her honour and that the Joan Curran Summer House would be built there. That pleased her enormously. She leaves behind a daughter, three sons, and three grandsons who were devoted to her.