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Vonberg, Dr. Derek Daniel, CBE
1921-2015

Born in Croydon on 23 July 1921, he was a pupil at Whitgift School before gaining a First Class BSc. in electrical engineering at Imperial College, London. After wartime service on the development of radar at Malvern, he began research for a doctorate at the Cavendish radio astronomy department in Cambridge, where he collaborated with Martin Ryle on a remarkable paper on ‘radio-frequency radiation from the sun’, still considered one of the seminal papers of radio astronomy.

In 1949 he was appointed to Hammersmith Hospital, London, first as chief engineer until 1962 and then as Director until his retirement in 1986. As such he was involved in the pioneering work which led to the development of the first cyclotron in the world to be used for medical and biological purposes. This produced small quantities of radioactive substances which could be used safely as tracers, and also atomic particles for use in the studying and radiotherapy treatment of cancer. The number of patients benefiting from this treatment, along with the number of cyclotrons, has increased enormously over the years and in 1980 he was awarded a CBE in recognition of his leadership of the project and his own engineering prowess.

Born into a Methodist family, he maintained and deepened his faith, especially through reading during retirement, at Alresford and in later years in Alderney. This found practical outlets in the life of his local church and in his support of medical charities. He died in Alderney on 4 April 2015. A memorial service was held at the Astrophysics Department, Cambridge in June.

Entry written by: DHV
Category: Person

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