Craig M Comrie (1946-2016)

15 Dec 2016 - 12:00

Emeritus Associate Professor Craig Comrie was a pillar of strength in Physics at UCT for 40 years.

A few days after his 70th birthday, while walking his dog Mac on Rondebosch Common, Craig suffered a fatal heart attack. His sudden death denied him the joy of capping his son, Angus, who graduates with a PhD in Physics at UCT this month.

Born in Natal, Craig obtained a BSc and Bsc(Hons) at the University of Natal, and a PhD in Physics at the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge.

Craig joined UCT in 1976 straight from Cambridge.  He has been a popular figure in Physics since then, with his scientific skill coupled to a most likeable temperament.  He was a natural teacher, being a most successful lecturer in all years, but especially to the first year medics, and an efficient organizer of the huge first year laboratory. He also served as a curriculum advisor to students. His research focused on solid state, thin film and surface physics, where he used the Rutherford back-scattering technique at the iThemba LABS Van de Graaff accelerator to understand how metals diffuse into silicon. He supervised several MSc and PhD students and was a mentor to many more.

Noted for his clear thinking and sensible view of academic matters, Craig served on the committee of the Academics Association (now Union) for many years and on the UCT Retirement Fund committee.

Craig served as HoD of Physics on two occasions, first in the late 1990s and then again 2004-2007. Calm, experienced, able to take a balanced view, Craig's voice was always one of reason and common sense.

Research trips to Leuven in Belgium, weekends near Nature's Valley and walks in the Drakensberg with his wife Brigid and his children were a delight for him.

After retiring in 2011 Craig, now emeritus, continued research at iThemba LABS, and taught physics in the health science faculty.

His warmth, compassion and enthusiasm endeared Craig to all his colleagues. Our sympathies are with his wife Brigid, his children Caitlin, Laura and Angus, his grandchildren and extended family, and Mac.

Following the funeral on 16 December, the Department of Physics will host a celebratory event on 21 April 2017.


Andy Buffler and David Aschman

UCT Physics