Dr. George D. Wignall, 82, passed away at his home on October 23. George was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, England in 1941 to the late Bernard and Agnes Wignall. He graduated from Hanson Grammar School in 1959 and won a prestigious state scholarship to Sheffield University in Yorkshire, England where he received his B.Sc. in 1962 and his Ph. D in Physics in 1966. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment (Harwell, England) and at Caltech (Pasadena, California), he specialized in neutron and x-ray scattering and then joined Imperial Chemical Industries from 1969 to 1979 in England and Belgium, where he applied these techniques to polymer structure. He proposed deuterium labeling to “color” individual molecules and make them visible in the condensed state and initiated some of the first small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) experiments, which gave for the first time direct information on polymer chain configurations.
In 1969 George met his future wife, Andrea. They were married on June 27, 1970, at St. Paul’s Retreat, Ilkley, Yorkshire, England, and shared a love of dance and reading throughout their long and happy marriage. They particularly enjoyed 9 years of living in England and Belgium, where their two children were born, and their extensive travels in Europe both before and after retirement.
In 1979 Dr. Wignall joined Oak Ridge National Laboratory and worked with W.C. Koehler to construct a 30-meter SANS facility, which was one of the first instruments available to the U.S. Scientific community. He collaborated with many visiting scientists in studies of polymer structure, thermodynamics, and phase behavior, which resulted in over 250 scientific publications. He wrote many review articles, including a chapter on Neutron Scattering in the Encyclopedia of Polymer Science and Engineering.
Throughout his career, Dr. Wignall received several honors, including Significant Event Awards for the Application of SANS to Soft Matter and for Sustained Achievement and Pioneering Research on Polymer Structures. He also shared an Arnold Beckman Award for ultra-small angle neutron scattering instrument development with Michael Agamalian and was elected to a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1984 for ‘Pioneering and Continuing Innovative Work on the Structure and Conformation of Polymers.’
During the last decade of his working life, Dr. Wignall collaborated with Ralph Moon to design two new state-of-the-art SANS facilities at the ORNL High Flux Isotope Reactor and later coordinated their construction. These spectrometers have since become two of the most over-subscribed instruments by users of the ORNL neutron scattering facilities.
While still an undergraduate in England, George joined the Catholic Church and was an active member of Saint Mary’s parish throughout his time in Oak Ridge. In particular, he worked with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program for people inquiring about the Catholic faith and sponsored numerous new Church members. In addition to these activities, he acted as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer, working to provide a safe and stable family environment for abused and neglected children.
In addition to his wife, George is survived by his son, David of Knoxville, and daughter, Sadie (Rafi), of Wilmette, IL and his two grandsons, Milo and Ari, and numerous cousins living in England. The family wishes George to be remembered for his kind and gentile nature, typically British wit, deep faith in the Lord, and ability to teach subjects ranging from science to his peers, fold dancing to young people, and sharing his faith with various age groups at his Church, but most of all for his great love for his wife, children, and grandchildren.
The family wishes to thank the staff of Quality Private Duty Care for their excellent and loving care for George during his final months with special kudos to Maureen, Sandy, Brenda, and Jessica.
The family will receive friends from 9:30-10:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 28 at St. Mary’s Church prior to a Rosary at 10:30 a.m. and a funeral Mass at 11:00 a.m. A private burial service at Oak Ridge Memorial Park will follow. In lieu of flowers the family request donations to St. Mary’s Church, 327 Vermont Ave, Oak Ridge, TN 37830, or Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity, 53 Cove Ave. Jenkins, KY 41537. Mott-McKamey Funeral Home in Oak Ridge is assisting with the arrangements.