1974 - 2008
Ewan Polwart, analytical chemist and industrial statistician, died unexpectedly at Stirling Royal Infirmary on Christmas Day from streptococcal septicemia, aged just 34.
He was well known within and beyond the industry not only for insightful data analysis, but in particular for his ability to convey complex statistical ideas to colleagues in the training courses and lectures that he delivered across the UK and internationally.
Throughout his career Ewan was an avid promoter of science, working with schools and the Royal Society of Chemistry to foster interest in science and to help teachers bring real world chemistry into the classroom, as well as having strong ideas on how politicians should engage with science - views he shared with sitting ministers through initiatives such as "Science and the Parliament".
Whether presenting chemistry or statistics, he seemed to collect awards and prizes wherever he went for his well thought-out content and clear delivery. The Hamilton-Barrett and Salter prizes were among the many awards Ewan was to receive for his research and communication of science.
Even as an undergraduate Ewan was committed to practical exploitation of pure science, completing projects with the Police Scientific Development Branch, and the Scottish Reactor Research Centre at East Kilbride. Ewan gained a first class honours degree in Forensic and Analytical Chemistry, before embarking on research into use of modified fibre optics for surfaced enhanced Raman spectroscopy sensors with Dr Christine Davidson and Professor Ewen Smith at Strathclyde University, for which he was awarded his PhD. He continued personally to encourage interaction between industry and academia, maintaining strong links with Strathclyde University through collaborative research projects.
As FFIC's chemometrician and statistician, Ewan often had the challenging job of persuading those less mathematically adept of the value of advanced numerical analysis in solving their real-world problems. Time and again, his colleagues found themselves adopting sophisticated methods of experimental design and data analysis, their initial apprehension fading in the face of Ewan's enthusiasm, good humour, clear technical excellence, and dedication to first class science. One mark of the respect in which he was held must be that although he was regarded as by far the most exacting and uncompromising reviewer of one's analytical results, he was also the person to whom people chose to turn in order to understand those results.
Ewan was FFIC's representative on two industry bodies, CPACT (process analytics) and ENBIS (industrial statistics) and had recently secured a SPIRIT project in collaboration with Strathclyde University. He was one of those people whom everyone wanted on their team.
Away from the laboratory Ewan was a dedicated amateur athlete, earning particular success in Cross Country events during the early part of his career; he was also a keen hill-walker and 'Munro bagger'. Ewan seemed to be able to turn his hand to anything he pleased, including cooking, brewing his own beer, and photography, with the same combination of natural ability, passion and determination that he applied throughout his life.
He is survived by a wife and son, Ruth and Adam, and parents Pauline and Graham.
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