Obituary: Professor Jeffrey Collins, 85

Professor Jeffrey Collins, electrical engineer and pioneer in his field has died in Gullane at the age of 85.

Professor Collins brought an enthusiastic expertise to Edinburgh University and showed a canny ability to raise funds for his many academic projects.

Collins had the expertise to explain to and enthuse students and potential donors with his lucid demonstrations and explanations of complex problems.

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The success of his pioneering vision to establish signal processing at the university is still very much in evidence: a 140-person joint research institute in signal and image processing between the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University remains the largest such research activity in the UK. It was an outstanding achievement and is Collins’ undoubted legacy.

Jeffrey Hamilton Collins attended the Royal Grammar School in Guildford and then read mathematics and physics at London University. In the 1940s he worked as a junior technician in the Department of Physics at Guy’s Hospital in London and from 1951-56 he worked in the microwave department for GEC, firstly at Wembley then with Ferranti in Edinburgh.

He returned to academia from 1957-66 and was a lecturer and did extensive research at Glasgow University. He continued as a research engineer at the Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory, Stanford University, where he did valuable work on surface acoustic waves.

In the US, he tried to visit all the states – he clocked up 28 – and had miniature flags of those around his house in Edinburgh. While at Stanford, Collins was one of the founding directors of the Automation and Robotics Research Institute and led the influential research team that developed the UK’s Skynet military communications system.

In 1970 he returned to Edinburgh University as the technical director of Microwave and Electronic Systems, where he expanded their commercial capabilities into new radar receiver designs. Collins chaired the University’s Wolfson Microelectronics Institute from 1977-84 which led to a further growth in manpower and the staff rose to more than 400.

Collins published widely in learned electrical engineering magazines and his Computer-Aided Design of Surface Acoustic Wave Devices in 1976 was welcomed as a pioneering publication. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and awarded an honorary DEng by Edinburgh Napier University in 1997.

A keen tennis player, he loved music and DIY, was an ardent supporter of Aldershot United, and attended all the internationals at Murrayfield with gusto. He is survived by his wife, Sally, and their two sons.