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Obituary: Professor George Overend

Head of the Department of Chemistry, Master and Fellow of Birkbeck

Birkbeck heard with sadness of the death of Professor William George Overend on 18 September 2012, aged 90.

Professor Overend was Master of Birkbeck from 1979 to 1987. He first joined the College in 1955 as a Reader, becoming Head of the Department of Chemistry in 1957, Vice-Master in 1974 and finally Master, as well as Dean of the Faculty of Science, University of London, in 1978. He was made a Fellow of the College on his retirement in 1987.

During his time in office Professor Overend worked tirelessly to uphold Birkbeck's reputation as a centre of excellence in part-time adult education and postgraduate research. Patricia Stroud, who worked for him for many years, including as his PA during his last year as Master, says: "George Overend was the most even-tempered man I have ever met, and I cannot remember a single occasion on which he lost his equanimity ... He was one of the most egalitarian of men, fairly formal in manner but kind and unpatronising to all who worked for him."

Birkbeck Fellow Dr Ron James, a former student of Professor Overend, says: "Professor Overend was head of Chemistry at the time I took my degree at Birkbeck, and I was fortunate to attend a series of lectures by him in my final year that pulled together various parts of the chemistry we had learned throughout the course into a coherent whole.

"I remember he was fond of saying things like: 'It's no use knowing all about bricks if you do not know how to use them to build a house'. He taught me a lot."