Trail-blazing scientist who discovered sub atomic particles dies

PUBLISHED: 17:00 25 November 2012

Ernst Kellermann outside the New End theatre

Ernst Kellermann outside the New End theatre


A trail-blazing scientist who escaped the Holocaust and worked with Nobel Prize winners has died, aged 97.

Ernst Kellermann, known as Walter, is thought to be among the first scientists to discover certain subatomic particles in the 1950s.

The astrophysicist, of Belsize Crescent, Belsize Park, helped capture images of hadrons and muons using pioneering technology.

He was held in high regard in his field and months before his death was still being consulted by scientists.

Sir Arnold Wolfendale, who helped with Mr Kellermann’s experiments with cosmic rays at Leeds University, said: “I always found Walter to be a fine, honourable man who would go out of his way to help those less gifted than himself. He had the characteristic of being of independent mind and was quite often at loggerheads with those in authority. We admired him for that.”

Mr Kellermann was one of three sons born to a liberal rabbi father in Berlin.

He went to university in Austria before being moved to Canada as anti-Semitism grew in Germany.

The British government discovered Mr Kellermann’s science background and enlisted him in its nuclear physics programme in Edinburgh. He also helped the military to use radars.

He settled here after the war and loved the British sense of humour, BBC comedies were a favourite.

He finished his studies at Southampton University and on a trip to Paris met his future wife Marcelle, a French freedom fighter.

They started a family and Mr Kellermann took up his first lecturer post at Manchester University before moving to Leeds University where he spent the best part of 30 years lecturing physics.

Professor Alan Watson, who worked with him in Leeds, said: “His teaching was not always conventional but the aim of a university teacher is to be inspiring and Walter was inspirational.”

Mr Kellermann retired in the 1980s and moved to London to be closer to his family and the cultural delights he and his wife enjoyed.

A Labour Party supporter and Fabian Society member, he lobbied the government into making physics a more important part of the school curriculum.

He died at the Royal Free Hospital last Thursday and is survived by wife Marcelle, daughters Judith and Barbara, son Clive, two grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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