A life dedicated to renewable energy and the environment
An orbituary by Prof. Bernard McNelis, ISES-UK
Before 1973 there were a mere handful of people in the UK with a real interest in solar energy. But there was one outstanding pioneer; John Page, Professor of Building Science at Sheffield University. He attended the ‘International Symposium on Applied Solar Energy’ in Phoenix, Arizona in November 1955 (one of only two British delegates I believe). The event was organised by the Association for Applied Solar Energy, AFASE, which later was renamed the International Solar Energy Society (ISES). The first President was Dr. Farrington Daniels, and John was the first member from the UK.
Stimulated by the ‘Oil Crisis’, interest in alternatives to fossil fuel started to increase. Before July 1973 there were eight members of ISES in the UK. This was when UNESCO hosted an international conference; ‘Sun in the service of Mankind’ in Paris. There were 40 attendees from the UK, including John and Dr. Mary Archer, and most of them did not know each other. ISES had several National Sections and the Brits decided to try and form a UK Section. Mary did the organising, and John was the natural choice to be first Chairman and to launch UK-ISES. The Inaugural Meeting was on the evening of 24th January 1974. By this time there were about 100 UK members of ISES (including myself), and the Royal Institution’s historic lecture theatre was packed to capacity. John, Mary, Dr. David Hall and Sir George Porter made outstanding presentations, and I became totally hooked on solar, at the age of 23. UK-ISES membership expanded rapidly with sell-out conferences and publications. I attended every one and thoroughly enjoyed my times with the big boss, Prof. Page, and we became good friends. We also went to the ISES International Congresses, which are held every two years in a different country. The high point for UK-ISES was when we hosted the 1981 Congress in Brighton. The Congress Chairman was Bill Charters, a very dear friend of John. At each Congress, ISES gives the Farrington Daniels Award to an individual who has achieved the highest contribution to advancing solar energy. In Brighton, the winner was Dr. Harry Tabor, another dear friend of John. The 1989 ISES Congress was in Kobe, Japan. The Farrington Daniels Award was presented to Prof. John Page.
Sadly, after the huge successes of the 1980’s UK-ISES was in decline at the start of the 90’s. Encouraged and supported by John, I became Chairman of UK-ISES and I organised a 20th Anniversary Conference at the Royal Institution. We heard lectures from the same four speakers from the Inaugural Meeting, and several other pioneers. John presented his brilliant ‘Renewable Energy and the Environment’.
John’s dedication to renewable energy, and ISES, was truly remarkable. UK-ISES is in worse decline that it was in the 1990’s, but John never gave up trying to revitalise the Society. Just two years ago, John may have been frail in the body, but he was e-mailing and phoning ISES Headquarters, ISES Australia, ISES President Dr. Dave Renné, and others to request ideas and help with the revitalisation. I am honored to be taking care of John’s solar archive, and will try to continue the endeavor.
We have lost one of the most outstanding people in the world of renewable energy. Goodbye John.
Prof. Bernard McNelis