Dr. John Allison

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND – Dr. John Arthur Charles Allison sadly passed away in his sleep on Feb. 18 in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England. He had been residing at Bramley Court Care Home where he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for a number of years. He was predeceased by his second wife of 30 years, Jane Sherman (Curry) Allison, who died October 2005, also in Cambridge.

Dr. Allison was born June 24, 1927, in Wandsworth, London, England, the only child of Arthur Roland Allison and Charlotte Edith (McManus) Allison. Along with his best friend he was one of thousands of children sent from London to the country during the Blitz of 1940 – 1941. He attended secondary school at Sutton Valence School in Kent, England and after graduation was admitted to Trinity College at Cambridge University, a college with such notable alumni as Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and the current Prince Charles. There he pursued both undergraduate (B. A., 1945 – 1948) and graduate degrees (M. A., Ph.D., 1948 – 1951) in organic and inorganic chemistry. He was also a teaching assistant during that latter time period. His dissertation was entitled “Derivatives of Aliphatic Phosphines and Arsines.” From 1951 to 1954 he worked as a research chemist at Imperial Chemical Industries, Ltd., Plastics Division in England.

He subsequently moved to the United States and pursued post-doctoral studies at Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass., 1954 1955, Organometallic chemistry) and later, Washington University (Seattle, Wash., 1955 1956, Fluorine chemistry).

After his first marriage to Betzabe M. Dyer in 1956 he spent two years in London substitute teaching (1957, 1958). In 1958 he returned to the U.S. where he worked for a total of nine years as a research chemist at DuPont Co., Explosives Dept. (Wilmington, Del., 1958 1964), Tidewater Oil Co. (Valley Forge, Penn., 1964 1966) and Hercules Inc. (Wilmington, Del., 1966 1967). While at Hercules he was also an instructor in polymer and organic chemistry at the Evening College, Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science (Philadelphia, Penn.).

In 1967 Dr. Allison and his family moved to Houghton, where he was an Associate Professor in the Chemistry Department of Michigan Technological University (MTU). There he taught organic and inorganic chemistry, including polymer and organometallic chemistry, until his departure in 1983. In 1984 he was granted Emeritus Associate Professor status at MTU. Throughout his professional career he wrote numerous papers covering a wide range of subjects in chemistry and also received a patent in 1965 (Copper Isocyanide Complexes). He was a member of the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, and Sigma Xi, an honorary society.

In addition to his research and teaching, John had many other interests, among them gardening, photography, skiing, genealogy, travel and cats.

Because of the British educational system of his day, he spoke fluent French. He also played the piano and composed several pieces for small string and woodwind ensembles which were performed in the Music in Miniature recital series at MTU. His classical music phonograph record collection was impressive, numbering in the thousands. John loved the theater and was an actor, director and producer in several productions in the Little Theatre group in Houghton. He also wrote several plays and adaptations for the stage, often at very little expense in terms of set decoration, such as cardboard boxes for a “time-travel gate.”

In 1983, after his second marriage to Jane in 1975, he and his family moved to Exeter, England, initially on sabbatical leave to do research at Exeter University. After a few months in England, with an offer of early retirement from MTU, the decision was made to permanently leave Michigan and remain in Exeter. When he finished his year at Exeter University he began substitute teaching at various schools in the area, often teaching for terms at a time at the same school. During school breaks and after retirement he and Jane had the opportunity to travel throughout the British Isles and Europe, including ski holidays in Switzerland.

In 1996 John and Jane moved to Cambridge to be near family. He enjoyed all of the cultural offerings of Cambridge where he could attend concerts and use the University Library. The flat landscape of Cambridge gave him the opportunity to take up cycling again.

A few years after Jane’s death John moved into a residential care home where he was very well looked after. Even with Alzheimer’s he never lost his love of chemistry and he tried to teach the staff and residents in the care home his beloved periodic table of elements.

Dr. Allison is survived by his daughter, Antonia (“Toni”) E.; step-daughter, Annie Ralinovski; two step-sons, David and Kim Opperman; and six step-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held March 14, 2013, in Cambridge, England. Any charitable donations may be sent to the Chemistry Department at MTU in Houghton.