On Monday, 23 August, a blue plaque was unveiled at 41 Westbury Road, Westbury-on-Trym. The plaque celebrates Hungarian-born polymer scientist Professor Andrew Keller FRS, who lived there for more than 30 years.
The plaque was unveiled by the Right Honourable Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Andrew Varney, accompanied by his consort Ms Jos Clark. Also attending were family members (in our featured image) and senior staff of the University of Bristol’s School of Physics, and some former co-workers of Keller from other universities.
Andrew Keller’s student years were remarkable. While studying at the University of Budapest during the Second World War, he was transferred and put to work in a Jewish labour battalion. He escaped, hiding in a haybarn, but was captured by the Russians. He broke free again – on a moonless night by crawling beneath barbed wire. He reached newly-liberated Budapest and graduated with a degree in chemistry in 1947. As the Soviet occupation loomed, he fled Hungary for England on the day before his PhD graduation. Keller’s first job was as a chemist at ICI, beating a young Oxford candidate – Margaret Roberts – who then chose a more political trajectory.
Keller moved to Bristol in 1955 and it was at our university where he spent most of his career. He worked with Sir Charles Frank FRS (who is also honoured with a blue plaque in Coombe Dingle) and he made his name with the discovery in 1957 of chain folding in polymer crystals. Professor Alan Windle FRS explained in his tribute that the polymers don’t lie in the plane of the crystal but at right angles to it, folded like a Chinese cracker.
We adjourned to a local inn for Hungarian food prepared by Andrew Keller’s family. Thanks to Nicola and the children for spicy sausage, dobos torte and gesztenyepüré. And thanks also to Professor Robert Evans FRS for working with us on this application and arranging the unveiling event.