RMS learns of death of SEM pioneer Dr Kenneth C A Smith Hon FRMS

Cambridge scientist was key figure in design of the first Scanning Electron Microscopes

The RMS was saddened to learn of the recent death of one of its Honorary Fellows, Dr Kenneth C A Smith.

Dr Smith, a pioneer of the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), was a leading figure in the Cambridge University Engineering Department – where he remained throughout his 40-year career. He took over and greatly improved the first SEM, built by Dennis McMullan (Fellow RMS) under Charles Oatley’s direction, and explored its range of potential applications.  

After arriving at Cambridge as an undergraduate in 1949, he went on to study for his PhD under Professor Sir Charles Oatley, as part of a research group which became synonymous with the development of the earliest SEMs.

In the late 1950s an SEM designed by Dr Smith was bought by the Pulp and Paper Research Institute in Canada, where it became the first instrument of its kind to be used in a commercial application. Dr Smith gained further recognition for his work on the high voltage electron microscope at the Cavendish Laboratory.

He will be remembered as the author of numerous papers on scanning electron microscopy. He also co-authored (with Ruben Alley) an important book on the subject of electrical circuitry: 'Electrical Circuits: an introduction'  – a comprehensive text for students first published in 1992, and edited, with Bernie Breton and Dennis McMullan, a magnificent tribute to Sir Charles Oatley, whom he greatly admired, published in ‘Advances in Imaging and Electron Physics’, 133 (2004). His personal memoirs were published in the same serial in 2013.

Dr Smith received his RMS Honorary Fellowship in 1984, in recognition of his outstanding and sustained contributions to microscopy. He was also the recipient of the Microscopy Society of America's Distinguished Scientist Award.

Dr K C A Smith died on 15 March 2020, at the age of 91.


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