John Bernard Pethica FRS FREng, Research Professor in the School of Physics and one of the founding directors of the Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN) was knighted in the recent Queen's Birthday Honours list 2014 for services to science.
Professor Pethica’s work is in nano-mechanics, thin films, surface physics and microscopy. A particular achievement was the development of the technique of nanoindentation for elastic and plastic deformation analysis of materials, thin films and coatings below the optically visible limit. This was a major breakthrough which had a huge impact on the world of materials science and engineering. From this work he co-founded a company, Nano Instruments, in 1984 to successfully seed the small scale mechanical testing market – a market that continues to grow today. He also played a key role in the development of the atomic force microscope – a research tool in use in many laboratories across the world. As Physical Secretary and Vice-President of the Royal Society, he has raised the profile of applied science and guided its policy work on climate change.
John Pethica graduated from the University of Cambridge with a BA and PhD in physics. He was a staff scientist at Brown Boveri Co., Switzerland from 1980 to 1982, and then held Fellowships at Cambridge from 1983 to 1987. In 1996 he was appointed Lecturer and then Professor of Materials Science at the University of Oxford. Professor Pethica became an SFI Research Professor at Trinity College Dublin in November 2001. He is also currently part-time Chief Science Advisor to the National Physical Laboratory in the UK and in 2009 he was appointed Physical Secretary and Vice President of the Royal Society. Awards received include the Rosenhain Medal of the IOM3 (1997), the Hughes Medal of the Royal Society (2001) and the Holweck Medal from the French Physical Society (2002). In 2011 Professor Pethica was honoured by Trinity College when he was elected an Honorary Fellow.