Tributes to Mansfield man who became leading scientist in USA

Tributes have been paid after the death of a scientist, regarded as an archetypal example of a Mansfield boy made good.

By Richard Silverwood
Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 4:15 pm
Mansfield born-and-bred scientist Alan Brailsford, who has died at the age of 91.
Mansfield born-and-bred scientist Alan Brailsford, who has died at the age of 91.

Alan Brailsford who rose from an impoverished family to become a key management figure at the world-renowned Ford Motor Company in the USA, passed away on Monday, April 26 at the age of 91.

Nephew Neil Tristram, of Blidworth, said: “It would be a great tribute if Alan’s life could be commemorated for posterity.

"He was Mansfield born and bred and was brought up during the hardship of the war years.

Alan, pictured in 1989 with his wife of 68 years, Josephine.

"He came from a working-class home on Dallas Street and attended what was then Brunts Grammar School.

"During his long and distinguished scientific career, he often returned to the Mansfield area to visit relatives.

"Alan is a real example of a local boy made good. I hope that some of the present students at Brunts read about him to inspire them towards success in life.”

Born in 1930, Alan attended Brunts between 1941 and 1949 before going on to earn B.Sc., Ph.D. and D.Sc degrees at the University of Birmingham.

He married his childhood sweetheart and fellow Brunts pupil, Josephine Perkins, in Nottingham in 1952 and while they were in their 20s, four years later, they emigrated to the USA during an era that was called the ‘brain drain’.

Skilled scientists were recruited by companies in the States, with Alan initially working for the Bell Telephone Company. He soon moved to Ford, where he worked as a research physicist and progressed to become head of the physics department in the firm’s research laboratory.

On his trips back to Britain, he carried out several secondments at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell in Oxfordshire, and was also a visiting professor at the University of Exeter in Devon, where he and his wife had a holiday home.

Alan worked on problems in the electron theory of metals, dislocation dynamics, radiation effects in metals and alloys, and various topics in device physics.

He was so well respected that he became a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the Institute of Physics.

Alan, the son of a coal miner, William Brailsford, attributed much of his success to his mother, Laura (nee Heath), who instilled in him the ethics and morals that served him well through life.

Like her, he was a regular churchgoer and, for 50 years, he was involved with the First Presbyterian Church at Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, where he lived with his family.

Alan spent many hours educating himself on the subject of Christian studies and also had a passion for reading.

He was a talented writer of poems, stories and plays, and enjoyed golf too.

Alan was married to Josephine for 68 years before she died in 2020. He leaves two daughters, Amanda and Melanie, one son, Gavin, three grand-daughters, Bethany, Melissa and Grace, and three great grandchildren, Ava, Hazel and Orlando. They all live in the USA.

A tribute to Alan, which can be found on an obituary website in Dearborn, reads: “He was an extraordinary, intellectual man with a caring heart.

"He had a smile for all and a great sense of humour and fun.

"Everyone described him as such a nice and kind man. He will be greatly missed.”