David Layton

DAVID Layton won a national reputation for his enduring and committed interest in promoting science education. It first showed itself in the MSc thesis he wrote while at London University, its subject being the popularisation of science in Great Britain between 1650 and 1800.

That work was the first fruit of what was to prove an enduring interest in the development, influence and diffusion of scientific ideas and in the educational functions of science.

Emeritus Professor David Layton, former Professor of Science Education, at Leeds University has died aged 85.

He was born in Darlington in 1925 and went to Sir William Turner's School, Coatham, Redcar, where he excelled both academically and on the sports field. He went up to St John's College, Cambridge, in 1943 to read Natural Sciences and played for the University 1st XV at rugby. After graduation, he spent two years carrying out scientific research in industry before taking up a teaching post in 1947, at the County Grammar School, Bolton.

Two years later, David moved to the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle upon Tyne, where, as well as teaching science, he was master in charge of rugby. He distinguished himself in both capacities. In 1957 he was appointed director of general studies, and one of his responsibilities now was to look after the interests of pupils applying for university entrance.

Following a period of part-time study, in 1955 David was awarded his MSc degree by London University.

Appointed in 1960 by Leeds University as lecturer in its then education department, he went on to make major and seminal contributions to the development of science education. His achievements were based on his success as both scholar and teacher, his outstanding organisational abilities and unfailingly good judgment, and personal qualities which inspired the warm co-operation and loyalty of students and colleagues alike.

He was initially responsible for the course on the teaching of chemistry in secondary schools but in 1963 he was appointed to the newly-created office of Deputy Head of the Education Department. For the next nine years, he took responsibility for the administration of the department's higher degree programmes, the establishment of a full-time MA programme and the introduction of the teaching of curriculum studies into higher degree programmes at Leeds some years before other universities followed suit.

David Layton was closely involved in the study and evaluation of the extensive developments in science education in schools which took place during the 1960s, both in this country and abroad, under the aegis of bodies such as the National Science Foundation, UNESCO, the Nuffield Foundation and the Schools Council. He was also in large measure responsible for the planning and development of science teaching laboratories. It was a logical progression when, in 1970, David was the principal architect behind the establishment of the Centre for Studies in Science Education. He was the inaugural director of this centre and continued in office until 1982.

Complementing the centre's activities, David founded the journal Studies in Science Education in 1974, which continues to be an influential international review of research in the field and of which he was to remain editor until 1986.

David was appointed, in 1973, to a new Chair in Science Education. In the same year, one of his most influential volumes, Science for the People: The Origins of the School Science Curriculum was published.

Further articles, books and reports followed, all characterised by an elegant and lucid prose style and informed by his historical scholarship, sensitivity to wider political issues and welcoming attitude to international developments in science education.

In 1988 he was awarded the OBE for his services to education. He retired from his post in the following year, following which the title of Emeritus Professor was conferred upon him. In retirement, he turned his attention to the public understanding of science and the notion of science for specific social purposes.

He is survived by wife, Margaret, and their two sons, Matthew and Mark, and daughter, Alison.