Headshot of Sir Martin Wood
Sir Martin Wood

Tributes to pioneering Oxford innovator, Sir Martin Wood

Tributes from across the University are being paid to Sir Martin Wood who died last week at the age of 94.

Sir Martin’s pioneering work led to the development of the world’s first superconducting magnet, a new research field of nuclear magnetic resonance, and the creation of the first fully functioning MRI for medical use, which has led to millions of lives being saved every year.

Sir Martin joined the University in 1955 as a senior research officer in the Department of Physics where his research on resistive high-field magnets established a technology that became highly sought after.

This led to him founding, with his wife Lady Audrey, the University’s first successful spinout company, Oxford Instruments. The company originally operated out of Sir Martin's garden shed but rapidly grew and is now a FTSE 250 company with an annual revenue of over £300M. It provides high technology products and services to the world’s leading industrial companies and scientific research communities.

Sir Martin was knighted in 1986 for his services to science and has received numerous awards and honorary doctorates. Both Sir Martin and Lady Audrey have been generous in their many philanthropic endeavours. The University has benefitted enormously from their support and a donation of funds to build the Sir Martin Wood Lecture Theatre and surrounding rooms, as well as from a substantial donation to the new Beecroft Building in the Department of Physics.

The annual Sir Martin Wood Prize fosters UK-Japan links and is awarded each year to an outstanding young Japanese scientist who receives the opportunity to lecture in UK universities, including Oxford, and Sir Martin took great pleasure in meeting each year's prize winner.

Professor Chas Bountra, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Innovation, said: 'Sir Martin is remembered as a true pioneer of innovation at Oxford. His incredible legacy will undoubtedly continue to inspire new generations of innovators at the University, many of whom I hope will go on to achieve similar success. My condolences go to Martin’s family at this sad time.'

Sir Tim Hitchens, President of Wolfson College, said: 'Sir Martin was a towering figure at Wolfson, a Fellow from our earliest days in 1967 to 2021, and a pioneer in connecting research, academia, and entrepreneurialism. He will be sorely missed by his many friends at College.'

Professor Sam Howison, Head of Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division, said: 'I was deeply saddened to hear the news of Martin’s passing. He was a great man and a great friend to Oxford. We pass on our sympathies to the Wood family and we will forever remember the great things Martin achieved in his life.'

A full tribute written by Professors Steve Blundell, Robert Taylor and Ian Shipsey can be found on the Department for Physics website.