Tom McLeish 1962-2023

PCN remembers, with gratitude, the great contribution of Thomas Charles Muckland McLeish, and extends our condolences to all who knew him.

The news of the death of Prof Tom McLeish FRS, theoretical physicist, interdisciplinary academic, Church of England Reader and widely respected writer came as something of a shock, when it was announced, to many of his friends and admirers – among them plenty of PCN members. In fact, though, Prof McLeish had revealed last summer that he had been diagnosed with inoperable Pancreatic cancer, and knew that his days were limited.

Writing on twitter in September 2022 he told his followers of his illness in a characteristically understated way and noted, matter-of-factly: “at some point this twitter stream on music, science, theology, interdisciplinarity, and connections (& just a tiny bit on pointing out how terribly incompetent and corrupt a level we have let our political leadership to sink to) will just stop.” And so it did.

A Fellow of the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Chemistry and, since 2011, a Fellow of the Royal Society itself, Prof McLeish was widely celebrated for his contribution to the field of the sciences. He was also keen to explore the theological consequences of scientific thinking, his keen academic brain engaging with the biggest of questions - even asking probing questions about the theology of alien life forms!

Prof McLeish died on the 27th of February 2023. He is survived by his wife Julie and their four children. Only a few days before his death he was indeed tweeting news of interesting scientific papers, conferences and interviews. His appetite for exploration never seemed to wane.

PCN’s recent interaction with Tom McLeish came in the preparation for our series of lectures on science and faith (Thinking Science, Thinking Faith). Prior to the pandemic we had planned an ‘in person’ conference and Prof McLeish had agreed to speak. Plans changed, of course, and he wasn’t keen on the prospect of doing a zoom lecture.

PCN Trustee Martin Bassant recalls the great pleasure of meeting Tom prior to the pandemic. He said:

“Adrian Alker and I met Tom McLeish in York shortly before Covid struck, he was to be our main speaker and contributor to our Thinking Science, Thinking Faith day later in the year. We found him charming, flexible and approachable; just want we needed to ‘kick off’ our day.

“His early background was in ‘soft matter’ a part of Physics which interfaces with Biology and Chemistry in studying, amongst other things, the behaviour of liquids, colloids and flesh.

“This polymath approach to Science has led him to be made the first Chair of Natural Philosophy at the University of York, and he has written several books about Faith and Science in ‘order to change the culture among senior Christian leaders in their view of science – from fear to joy!’ He will be missed as an Anglican Lay Reader as well as a Scientist!”

PCN remembers, with gratitude, the great contribution of Thomas Charles Muckland McLeish, and extends our condolences to all who knew him.

Back to News