A Service in Memorial of James Anthony Charles

Recorded on
Saturday, 2 June 2018

James Anthony Charles was born in Ardrossan but his parents had grown up in Cambridge. Tragically his father was killed in a road accident in 1932. His schooling was mostly in Bromley with evacuation to Cambridge from 1940 to 1942. In 1943 he entered Imperial College, joining the Metallurgy course in 1944 and graduating BSc Eng, ARSM in 1947. With a first class degree in metallurgy he was directed into industry instead of military service and joined J. Stone. In 1950 he moved to the British Oxygen Company. A University Lecturer in Metallurgy from 1960, JAC supervised a wide range of projects, mostly involving relevance to industrial practice. He was often a consultant for industry and Government bodies, and was actively involved with professional metallurgical societies. In 1965 a chance conversation initiated his interest in archaeometallurgy. He also contributed to the work of the Fitzwilliam Museum. Recognition of his achievements included ScD (1973), Reader (1978), Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (1983), Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (1985), Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Materials (2002), Beilby Medal and Prize (1965), Hadfield Medal and Prize (1977), Kroll Medal and Prize (1989), and Elegant Work Prize (1992),with Y.W. Cho. JAC joined St John’s College in 1960, was elected a Fellow in 1963, and served principally as Junior Bursar (1963-67) and Director of Studies in Natural Sciences (1970-1987). His final book, One Man’s Cambridge (2006), focuses on the life of his father, whom he greatly admired, and reveals that his great-great-grandfather and great-grandfather had held the post of St John’s College Groom and their wives had been College bedmakers. JAC and Valerie (née King), who married in 1951, were very hospitable, entertaining or providing shelter for many. They had two children, Richard and Stephen. JAC was devastated when Valerie died in 2001 and again when Richard died in 2013. In 2003 he married a long-standing family friend, Dr Marcia Edwards. Stephen and Marcia survive him. JAC was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and helpful; almost a guardian angel to many students. He was resolutely a “Metallurgist”, interested primarily in industrial processes, but his intuitive understanding led to important work in archaeometallurgy and museum collections. His long involvement with St John’s College brought him particular pleasure, not least because past members of his family had been College servants. 

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