Prof Colin Pillinger
The Open University (OU) is paying tribute to one of its leading scientific academics Professor Colin Pillinger, who has died at the age of 70.
Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor, The Open University, said: “Professor Pillinger was not only an inspiration to us here at the OU, but to people across the world with his infectious enthusiasm for science and discovery. His expertise continues to inform current space and scientific research – such as the work by the OU on Europe’s Rosetta comet landing craft.
“I have no doubt that Colin’s legacy will be to inspire and stimulate study in this field for many decades to come. Here at the OU we are immensely proud of our association with such a much-valued and much-loved scientist.”
Imran Khan, Chief Executive of the British Science Association, said: "Colin Pillinger was a true ambassador for science; not only did his work capture the public's imagination, he was incredibly warm and generous with his time, especially in inspiring younger generations of scientists to follow in his footsteps. I'm sure the thoughts of everyone who had the privilege of meeting him will be with his friends and family at this time."
Professor Pillinger was elected to Fellowship of the Royal Society in 1993 for the major contributions he has made to geochemistry and cosmochemistry. Since his early work on the Apollo lunar samples, he had been a specialist in the occurrence and isotopic composition of carbon, nitrogen and hydrogen in extraterrestrial materials. This has led him to the investigation of the possibilities of life beyond Earth, and particularly the search for life on Mars.
The probe Beagle 2, named after Charles Darwin’s HMS Beagle, was carried piggyback to the Red Planet on a European satellite, but contact was lost after it was deposited for landing in December 2003.
The Beagle 2 mission however succeeded in turning Professor Pillinger into an international star overnight and his expertise and charismatic West Country charm was in continual demand by media who saw him as the commentator of choice for numerous space and scientific discoveries.
Professor Pillinger was married to wife Judith and has two children Shusanah and Nicholas.