Dr. James A Ballantine, known as Jim, passed away on 30 April in Singleton Hospital in Swansea, following a period of ill-health borne with great strength and optimism. He will be greatly missed by his wife Betty, sons Robert and Tony, daughters-in-law Su and Kathryn, and grandchildren Hollie, Ewan, Andrew, Sam and Greg, as well as by his many friends.
Jim was one of those rare individuals who was universally liked and respected, not only professionally for his excellent chemical, organisational and communication skills, but also for his warm personality, total integrity and willingness to help anyone. As expressed by Professor Andrew Pelter, FLSW, Jim's one-time Head of Department: " He was a loyal and absolutely trusted colleague who was a stalwart of the Department. I shall miss him. A very good person." Dr Tony Wellington, long term colleague in the Chemistry Department at Swansea University, added: "Jim was much admired by all of his colleagues. He was a pleasure to work with."
Although born in England, Jim regarded himself as a Scotsman, having grown up in Scotland. He was educated at Perth Academy and Wirral Grammar School , then read Chemistry at Liverpool University . Following his PhD he was awarded an ICI Post-doctoral Fellowship with Professor George Kenner to work on the synthesis of unsymmetrical porphyrins. He moved to Swansea University in 1961 to take up a lectureship in Organic Chemistry and stayed there until 1998 , when he retired from a position of Reader in Chemistry, to which he had been promoted in 1981 .
Jim described himself as an analytical organic chemist and always liked to use instrumental techniques to provide chemical insight. Ensuring that instruments were in peak condition required considerable dedication and attention to detail and Jim developed outstanding organisational skills, which became recognised. Consequently, when Swansea University set up an Institute of Marine Studies in 1978, Jim was appointed Director . He also set up and ran an Environmental Monitoring Unit and he was instrumental in bringing the EPSRC National Mass Spectrometry Service Centre to the Chemistry Department in Swansea in 1986. He was the Director of this analytical facility until his retirement and due to Jim's management the service became highly acclaimed. He also passed on his hands-on skills to his students. Jim's first mass spectrometry PhD student, now Professor Colin Pillinger, FRS, Head of Planetary Sciences at the Open University, said: " I think I can safely say that I probably wouldn't have achieved much if it hadn't been for him letting me do research with him not for him."
Jim's analytical skills were much valued and he was involved in a very successful collaboration with the late Professor Howard Purnell and Sir John Meurig Thomas, FRS, FLSW, who commented: "Jim was not only one of the most decent people I have ever met, he was also an excellent chemist. We published some 20 or so papers together. It was a joy to collaborate with him. His mass spectrometric and other analyses were superbly executed and he derived great joy from his and our joint work --as I did. Our clay catalysis work attracted worldwide attention. One of our papers described a process, a variant of which is now the basis of the manufacture of a fragrance."
Jim was also a great communicator and loved to promote chemistry to a wider audience. His presentations were beautifully designed and his public lecture - " Poisons from the sea - or when to avoid the fish course!" - was always well received. Despite his illness, he delivered it as recently as February 2011 to the Swansea Science Café. In 1995 he joined forces with Bill Williams of Aberystwyth in giving demonstration lectures on Science and Energy to primary school children. He modified and developed the lecture and between 1995 and 2011 he presented (personally or in tandem with Bill Williams) 533 lectures to nearly 60,000 children at venues all over Wales and some in England.
Jim was also an enthusiastic and extremely active participant in Royal Society of Chemistry activities, which was recognised by the RSC with an award for service to the Society. His association goes back to 1955, when he joined the Royal Institute of Chemistry as an Associate (ARIC) . He held the posts of Hon Secretary and Treasurer of the South Wales West Local Section for 23 years . He also became Chairman of both the Local Section and the Wales Region and served on RSC Council for four terms of three years . He served on numerous RSC Committees and Boards (LAB, Ethical, CLS, PAMB, Environment) and was Chairman of the Committee for Local Sections from 1997-2000. He joined the Benevolent Fund Committee as Wales Regional Representative in 1998 and served as Vice-Chairman. He was also an RSC Parliamentary Link from 1990 onwards .
Since his retirement Jim devoted much of his time to RSC sponsored activities. In addition to those listed above he organised the South West Wales Chemical Olympiad Competition (a science quiz for secondary schools) for 30 years virtually single handed, aside from the assistance he arranged from quiz masters and devisors of questions. An average of 28 secondary schools participated each year, each entering a team of 4 pupils, so about 3500 pupils benefited directly from the experience. He recognised that setting the questions every year was a major task, and might present a big problem for the future of the competition, so his final contribution was to compile a comprehensive catalogue of suitable questions, all clearly indexed. He carried out this mammoth task alone in the last few months of 2012, when his health was fast deteriorating. This is typical of the person he was. As Sir John Cadogan, FRS, PLSW, put it: " He was such a splendid, pleasant and quiet man and a great servant of the RSC."
The affection and respect for Jim are perfectly summarized in the words of Dr Neville Jones, long-time colleague on the RSC South Wales West Local Section Trust: " A remarkable, marvelous man. There are few like Jim Ballantine."
Keith Smith, Cardiff University, May 2013