Scientist and former Denny High pupil credits teachers after CBE honour

A former Denny High pupil awarded the highest accolade in the Queen’s New Year Honours List has credited the pivotal influence of his secondary school teachers.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 6th January 2020, 10:10 am
Updated Monday, 6th January 2020, 11:05 am
Dr Andrew Taylor, a former Denny High School pupil, received a CBE in the 2020 New Year Honours List. Picture: Stephen Kill

Dr Andrew Taylor, who grew up in Banknock, has received a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to science and technology.

The award follows on from the 69-year-old’s election as a Fellow of the Royal Society last year, an honour also bestowed upon the likes of Sir Isaac Newton and Sir David Attenborough.

However, Dr Taylor insists all of his achievements would not have been possible without the input and guidance of those such as his Denny High chemistry teacher, Mr Wyllie, or mathematics tutor, Mr Hayes.

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Dr Andrew Taylor receiving his OBE in 1999 at Buckingham Palace with (L to R) mother Jean Taylor (nee Dawson), wife Beth and daughter Naomi

He said: “I am delighted to receive this award, which recognises the UK’s success in science and technology.

“I feel very privileged to have enjoyed a life-long career in science, which I trace back to the dedicated individuals whose teaching inspired me all those years ago in Denny High School.”

Dr Taylor, the son of Jean Taylor — known locally as Jean Dawson — was brought up in Auchincloch Drive, Banknock and attended Longcroft Primary before moving on to Denny High where he was named school dux in 1967.

Conversations about the origins of the universe with an uncle who was a Church of Scotland minister remain vivid in his mind, as Dr Taylor believes those discussions triggered his interest in science and learning.

He would go on to pursue his passion at the University of Glasgow and graduate with a First Class Honours degree in physics and chemistry in 1972.

Following a DPhil at St John’s College in Oxford, Dr Taylor joined the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxfordshire where he worked on the development of a new scientific facility, then known as ISIS, which used neutron scattering to investigate the fundamental properties of materials.

The Banknock man was then appointed as the director of the facility in 1993 and, under his 20-year leadership, the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source Centre would become the premier facility of its type world-wide.

Internationally, Dr Taylor played a key role in sustained collaborations across Europe, the USA, Japan and China.

Eight years ago, he earned another promotion and became the director of National Laboratories at the Science and Technology Facilities Council, assuming responsibility for its three research centres.

These were: the Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh, the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire and the Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire.

Prior to retiring in 2019, Dr Taylor led the development of world-class capabilities in accelerator technology, space science, particle physics, instrumentation and scientific computing, as well as the UK’s national neutron and laser facilities.

During his career, he also received an OBE for services to neutron science in 1999 and the Glazebrook Medal of the Institute of Physics in 2006, the same year in which was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Reflecting on his CBE award, Dr Taylor explained: “This was like an upgrade to the OBE I got about 20 years ago, which was quite a shock.

“My initial reaction was, ‘Goodness, I’m not in for all of this!’

“The one I’m really pleased about is getting elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society. That’s scientific peer recognition.

“That was just as I was about to step down and that was the real icing on the cake.

“They are people I really respect and I never thought I would be a member.”

Having placed down roots in Westcot, near Oxford, Dr Taylor is married to Beth, whom he met at the University of Glasgow as a student and with whom he has four children: James, Naomi, Rebecca and David.

The Taylors are also grandparents to three grandsons and a granddaughter, with another on the way.

Though his visits north of the border are no longer as frequent, Dr Taylor retains a special fondness for his country of birth.

He said: “I used to be up there every couple of months.

“I’ve still got friends in Scotland, it’s a great place.”