It is my privilege to pay tribute to my friend and close colleague Dr Michael Leonard's work and contributions as a chemist and University Teacher of his specialised area, that of analytical chemistry.
Michael, or Mick as he was normally known, was born in 1935 and in 1953 entered the Chemistry Department of the University of Birmingham and graduated in 1959 with a II(i), a rare high class of honours degree in those days.
He remained at Birmingham for post graduate studies with Tom West and Ron Belcher in the then rapidly developing field of sensitive and selective analytical reagent chemistry. Initially, he worked on new complexones for metal ions. However, a by-chance colour formation he noted in the sink, whilst washing out his flasks and beakers lead to the development of a completely new method for the fluoride ion. This was a topic which fascinated him for the rest of his career.
He graduated with a PhD in 1959 and then went to the research focused, "Standards Department", of Boot's in Nottingham to join the group lead by C A Johnson. Here he progressed and published on his fluoride methodology as well as some more mundane pharmaceutical topics, such as the determination of calcium in heavy magnesium carbonate. It was whilst at Boots he meet his dear wife, Sylvia, whom he married in 1962.
In 1962 he was appointed to a lectureship in analytical chemistry by Prof. Cecil Wilson. Over the years, with some excellent students, he maintained the fluoride studies and in time developed an improved, sulphonated version of alizarin fluorine blue; overall he wrote 19 papers on fluoride determination and an even larger number on metal complexes and other topics. This you would never have known unless you checked the literature as Mick was modest about his research achievements. The continuing significance of the fluoride work was recently noted in the Royal Society of Edinburgh obituary for hid PhD supervisor Tom West.
As a University teacher Mick was an exemplar of good practice. Always providing excellent lecture materials, up-to-date, often in advance of the current text books; as a personal discipline The Analyst and Analytical Abstracts were for him routine reading.
He was meticulous in his selection and testing of class experiments and in the running of the laboratories both for undergraduate and for taught course MSc students. He retired early, in 1996, to his colleagues' loss.
He was a devoted and active member of the Society for Analytical Chemistry and, since amalgamation, with Royal Society of Chemistry. His contributions to the Local Heats of the Schools Analyst Competition have been vital components of its success over years. It was always a delight to me and others to see the pleasure former students greeted him when they brought their students to the competitions.
Dr Michael Leonard, chemist and always a perfect gentleman, will be missed by generations of school teachers and other former students in which he inspired a love for chemistry and by his former colleagues in the School of Chemistry and the members of the Analytical Division of the Royal Society of Chemistry particularly those here in Northern Ireland.
D. Thorburn Burns, August 2013