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Founding fellow of Darwin College dies at age of 102



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Dr Abe Yoffe, emeritus fellow of Darwin College and emeritus reader in physics, has died at the age of 102.

He was the last surviving of the 12 founding fellows of Darwin College, which was founded in 1964.

The last of the 12 founders of Darwin College, Abe Yoffe, who has died. Picture: Courtesy of and copyright the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge
The last of the 12 founders of Darwin College, Abe Yoffe, who has died. Picture: Courtesy of and copyright the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge

During his subsequent 58 years on the fellowship he contributed enormously to the welfare of the college, and to the enhancement of its research standing by attracting many talented postgraduates, research fellows and internationally-renowned scientists.

Samuel Venn, development director at Darwin, said of Dr Yoffe: “Obviously an extremely distinguished scientist with a very long career, but in terms of Darwin, one of the 12 fellows who were here at the very beginning of our college and the last of them to survive.

“His passing is a moment for the college to reflect how far it’s come, and I think we’ve come a very long way from the time when we had just a dozen fellows and a handful of students to where we are now, with 70 fellows and 700 students, roughly.

“But the college’s spirit and the college’s purpose has not changed in that nearly 60-year period and I think that is quite remarkable.”

Samuel noted that Dr Yoffe was a regular visitor to the college “until the last five years or so; I think that’s when he started to find that he just couldn’t make it in anymore. He was living quietly at home for the last few years, he had a carer look after him.”

Samuel continued: “Some of the fellows who knew him well went to see him all the time and things like that, and when we had his 100th birthday, which was three years ago in 2019, everybody wanted to sign his card.”

On whether a memorial is planned, Samuel said: “We’re consulting with his family who will obviously have the final say on anything. It’s very much for his family to say what they would like and what he would have liked. But we’ll let people know.”

Abe was born on November 26, 1919, in Jerusalem. His parents were orthodox Jews, his father was a rabbi and the family lived in the Mea She’arim district of Jerusalem, a mainly Jewish neighbourhood outside the walls of the city.

When he was five years old, his father moved to Australia to establish a synagogue in Shepparton, in Victoria, which is where Abe lived as a child.

He went to Melbourne High School and then to the University of Melbourne where he graduated with a master’s degree in chemistry in 1941.

Abe became a member of Trinity College and was awarded his PhD in 1948. In 1958 he was appointed assistant director of research in the newly-formed Physics and Chemistry of Solids (PCS) group within the Cavendish laboratory.

He was head of the PCS group from 1981 until his retirement in 1987.



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