Ludwik Finkelstein, 1929-2011

Ludwik Finkelstein survived exile in Siberia at an early age to become one of the longest- serving members of staff at City University London and a noted engineer.

Professor Finkelstein was born in Lwów, then part of Poland, on 6 December 1929. In 1940, he and his mother were deported to Siberia by the Soviet authorities. He later said that it was this experience that “largely influenced” his decision to become an engineer.

In a short essay he wrote about his life, he explained: “I became convinced as a young boy that the basic needs of humanity for food, water and shelter were of paramount importance and that it is through technical means that it must be provided.”

After the war, he relocated with his family to England, and later wrote that he was “determined to justify the confidence the country placed in me”.

Professor Finkelstein studied physics, pure mathematics and applied mathematics at the Northern Polytechnic Institute, now part of London Metropolitan University, graduating in 1951. He worked in industry for the next eight years in electronics and mining.

Professor Finkelstein took a part-time master’s degree in physics at the University of London, which he completed in 1959. In the same year, he joined the faculty of the Northampton College of Advanced Technology as lecturer in instrument and control engineering.

He went on to be appointed reader in 1967 – the year after the college became City University – and professor of measurement and instrumentation in 1970. City awarded him a DSc in measurement and instrumentation science and technology.

By the time Professor Finkelstein retired in 1993, he was dean of the School of Engineering and a pro vice-chancellor at City. He also served terms as vice-president and president of the Institute of Measurement and Control and was elected to the Fellowship of Engineering – now the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Among the other honours he received were the Hartley Medal and honorary doctorates from City and the State Technical University of St Petersburg. He was appointed to the Order of the British Empire in 1990.

After retirement, Professor Finkelstein remained active in research, obtaining both a master’s and a doctorate from the Leo Baeck College in Hebrew and Jewish studies.

In a tribute to Professor Finkelstein, City says he played a “vital role” in the development of the university: “His personal kindness towards colleagues and students has been credited as the spark that sent countless young engineers on to distinguished careers.”

Professor Finkelstein died on 27 August. He is survived by his wife, Mirjam, and his three children.

Published in The Times Higher Educational Supplement on 29 September, 2011