Obituary for Ann

24 January 2017


Ann Marks MBE
24th July 1941 – 9th October 2016

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Ann Marks, who was a vital and dedicated member of the Women in Physics Group committee for many years. On 9th October 2016, she died peacefully surrounded by close family and friends, after losing a long, brave battle with pancreatic and metastatic liver cancer.

Ann worked for many years as a specialist physics teacher, before providing teacher professional development and working as an education consultant for university departments involved in physics outreach. She actively assisted the Physics Teacher’s Support Network and the Physics Teacher’s Conference, arranged visits (teachers plus students) to facilities like CERN, and campaigned for better teaching of physics in primary schools.  A keen communicator of science, she developed fun, web-based presentations that are now used internationally. She also trained physicists, across the UK, to give presentations to interest school pupils, particularly girls, in science.

Ann was invited to join the IOP’s Women in Physics Committee in 1995, which was the same year it became one of the professional groups, the Women in Physics Group (WIPG). She served as honorary treasurer in 2002-3, then as chair from 2003 to 2006. During that time she set up the Advisory Panel and the Early Career Award. She told us of how she was attending the WES awards and said to her cousin who was with her that it was a pity physics didn’t have something similar. Her cousin, Dame Mary Richardson, who was CEO of the HSBC Education Trust, replied that she was sure she would be able to get HSBC to sponsor such a prize. Many, many months of discussion followed to set up the award before the first Very Early Career Woman Physicist of the Year Award was awarded in 2006 to Liz Ainsbury. The Award was later sponsored by Shell for six years.

WIPG also joined the European Platform for Women Scientists (EPWS) around the same time, and Ann served as representative of the WIPG on the EPWS Board of Administration from 2009 and for many years edited the EPWS Newsletter. On behalf of the Platform, she presented very successful workshops to attract young girls into science at the science events ‘Expanding Your Horizons – Geneva’ in 2009 and 2011.

Ann was on the team that went to the first International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) International Conference on Women in Physics (ICWIP) in Paris in 2002 and took an active role in all subsequent ICWIPs, giving talks, preparing reports to the IOP, and leading the UK delegation to the conference in Canada in 2014. As member of the Local Organising Committee, she was involved in the successful bid to bring ICWIP 2017 to the University of Birmingham and was still busy assisting with the preparations for this event a few months before she died. The IUPAP Working Group always knew that they could rely on Ann to ably assist and were extremely grateful for her contributions.

She also served as a member of the Council of the IOP, the governing body of the Institute, and chaired their Nations and Regions Committee. In the 2007 Queen’s Birthday Honours list, Ann Marks was awarded Membership of the Order of the British Empire, MBE, for “services to Physics” and in 2013 she received the Institute of Physics Phillips Award for distinguished service. In early 2016, we heard that the Very Early Career Woman Physicist of the Year Award – now in its 10th year - was to be renamed the Jocelyn Bell Burnell Medal and Prize and incorporated into the main Institute of Physics Awards. Ann was delighted at the news, and particularly what it represented - the award she established had been given equivalent status as a medal and prize alongside other Institute of Physics awards, and its future was secure. It is a great shame she didn’t live to join us at the IOP Physics Awards Dinner in November 2016, as we celebrated the first Jocelyn Bell Burnell Medal and Prize being awarded to Jess Wade by Jocelyn Bell Burnell herself.

With Ann’s passing, we have lost a dedicated servant of the physics community, a vocal and determined advocate for women in physics, a reliable colleague and true friend. She was welcoming, incredibly organised, approachable, quick-witted, earnestly persuasive, relentlessly persistent, generous and ready to laugh. We will miss her greatly.

If you wish you may donate to the Pancreatic Research Project at Cancer Research UK in memory of Ann, and help make pancreatic cancer history. Read more at bit.do/AnnMarks.

Dr Heather Williams
Chair of the IOP Women in Physics Group Committee
14th December 2016