Alan Tallentire (1929–2022)

On 6 October 2022, Alan Tallentire FRPharmS, aged 93 years, of Wilmslow, Cheshire. Mr Tallentire registered with the Society in 1950 and later became a Fellow of the Society.


It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Alan, a much-loved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, sportsman and scientist, on October 6th 2022.

Lucy, Lawrence, Iain, David and Caroline  

It is with great sadness to inform that Alan Tallentire passed away on 6 October 2022, aged 93 years.

Alan was head of the Pharmacy Department of the University of Manchester from 1983 to 1988. Alan was also the first graduate dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering (1992 to 1995) where he set up the organisational structure of the Graduate School in Science, Engineering and Medicine and oversaw its running for the first three years of its operation. Many of the processes put in place then are still in existence now.

On his university retirement in 1995, Alan moved his lab to Manchester Science Park and co-founded, and was the managing director of Air Dispersions, where he worked until 2010. Alan was an inspirational leader, an opinion influencer, and an admired and respected colleague and friend.

Alan started at university in 1948 where he spent two years qualifying as a pharmaceutical chemist. He then registered as a part-time research student (self-funded via working as a pharmacist). In 1953, he was awarded an MSc and continued his research on the radiation sensitivity of bacterial spores. This, while being a full time demonstrator and then assistant lecturer in the Department of Pharmacy.

Alan received his PhD in 1958 and at the same time published his first paper in Nature. Alan’s career continued, going from full lecturer to senior lecturer, reader and professor (in 1979). Alan’s other university commitments, included being a member of Senate (1983 to 1992), serving on the University Research Committee (1993 to 1995), and being the chair of the university radiological protection sub-committee and member of the university health and safety policy committee (1989 to 1996). Alan was also on the board of directors of Medeval (1983 to 1996), which was the first substantive university spin-out company.

Alan’s research career was initially focused on gaining an understanding the mechanistic basis for differences in the radio-sensitivity of micro-organisms in different micro-environments. But Alan was always one for asking the question about what the application and/or consequences would be of any observation his students’ made. Without saying it, he taught his students to think things through — if only this was taught through all degrees and curricula.

Alan is remembered not only for his long-time educational and academic association with the University of Manchester, but also for his leading contributions to radiation science nationally and internationally. He was secretary (1974 to 1978) and then chair (1985 to 1987) of the UK Association for Radiation Research. Alan also served on the Council of the International Association for Radiation Research (1975 to 1982).

Arguably, Alan’s major contribution to radiation science was the establishment and codification of the use of ionising radiation for the sterilization of medical products. Alan was a highly respected and acknowledged contributor to the UK Panel on Gamma and Electron Irradiation, which provided a cross-functional forum for industry, academia and regulatory authorities to share information and experience that supported the use of ionising radiation for sterilisation. He acted as the panel technical secretary to the research committee (1971 to 1974), treasurer (1975 to 1980), deputy chair (1981 to 1982) and chair (1983 to 1987) over a period in which the science and practice of radiation sterilisation went through its most transformative stage.

Alan’s research into microbial inactivation by ionising radiation contributed to its acceptance as an effective and reproducible sterilising process. His ideas on the use of incremental sub-process irradiation doses combined with sterility tests on exposed product items led to the development of recommended practices for establishing the sterilization dose for radiation sterilisation. He played a major role in the standardisation of these approaches and their incorporation into International and European standards for radiation sterilisation. His attention to detail was a benchmark for contributing to standards development. This ensured that the standards for designating sterility, validation and routine control of radiation sterilisation, and the supporting microbiological methods and terminology, were scientifically accurate as well as clearly and consistently written.

Alan was also committed to sharing his knowledge and experience as a tireless global educator on sterility assurance. He acted as tutor for training organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency in their promotion of the peaceful uses of ionising radiation. He developed and delivered training on behalf of the EU to increase the competence of notified bodies performing conformity assessment for the regulation of medical devices.

Alan’s contribution was recognised by the presentation of the International Kilmer Memorial Award in 1998 for excellence in advancing research, education and international standardisation in sterilisation science. He was also made a science laureate at the International Meeting on Radiation Processing in 1999 and received the Standards Developer Award from the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation in 2015.

Outside university, Alan loved his sport. He was an accomplished football player (a lifelong Burnley supporter), squash player and a ‘Lancashire League’ cricketer. As a family man, and with all that said above, the family were the main focus of his life. Please join in offering sincerest condolences to Alan’s wife, Lucy, children, Lawrence, Iain, David and Caroline, and grandchildren and great grandchild Lucy, Guy, Rhys, Michael, Simone, Connor and Elsa.

Eamonn Hoxey and Ian Stratford

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, October 2022, Vol 309, No 7966;309(7966)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2022.1.162409

1 comment

  • Geoffrey Jacobs

    Professor Alan Tallentire, Ph.D., F.R.P.S.

    With much sadness and regret, I must write a few words about my research supervisor, colleague and friend, the late Professor Alan Tallentire. Alan's many academic and industrial achievements and accomplishments have already been enumerated In the Journal, nevertheless some personal reflections are appropriate. I had known Alan since 1968 when I was accepted to his team of radiobiology research students at the Pharmacy Department at Manchester University to work on radiosensitization of bacterial spores. I recall that on joining his small but select group as an enthusiastic young student raring to get started with my research, Alan's first priority was making sure I had suitable "digs" and financial support for tuition and subsistence. He was instrumental in helping me obtain a generous research grant from the Society.

    Alan expected high academic standards from his students, and although highly critical of us in the lab, outside he was always most supportive and displayed pride in his students. He was keen that we present our research progress at academic meetings at every opportunity. I recall that within months after my arrival, he insisted that I should present my preliminary findings at a Spore Group Meeting in Harrogate.

    He was also enthusiastic about his students acquiring teaching abilities and encouraged our participation as postgraduate tutors in pharmacy lab classes as well giving occasional lectures to the undergraduate pharmacy students. Alan not only taught me good scientific skills, but also how to write "good science", something I appreciate to this day. He was meticulous about good, clear and correct English usage and was highly critical of slovenly writing.

    I often recall his high standards of "business" ethics (even in science) when it involved grants, stipends, travel grants and plagiarism. Alan was more than a research supervisor; in fact, he acted as a wonderful father figure to all his students.

    Alan's many industrial contacts and his promotion of research within industrial pharmacy exemplify his not-living in an "ivory tower", yet he fought for high academic standards within the University setting, and was very much against the incorporation of non-academic subjects into the University's curricula (as was becoming fashionable in the early 70's). His scientific development of ISO Standard 11137 (a Standard for radiation dose setting for gamma-ray sterilization) is just one example of applying his research to the industrial setting. His founding of Air Dispersions after his retirement from academia is another.

    Despite his crowded academic schedule, Alan was a keen sportsman. There was always time for a lunchtime game of squash or evening football game, a round of golf, as well as his unflinching support of Burnley (his home town) and England's cricket team.

    Having moved to Israel after obtaining my Ph.D., we managed to keep in contact over the years - often when back in Manchester, I would visit him at the University or at Air Dispersions. As I continued in the same field both at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and as an independent consultant on sterilization issues, we would both be invited from time to time as lecturers at International Atomic Energy Agency courses or meet at IAEA headquarters in Vienna. I last spoke to him a couple of years ago at an ISO zoom conference when we even managed to exchange a few jokes and reminiscences.

    Alan was a most influential and sociable person, and would always find an excuse to take out his students for a beer, as well as inviting us all to his home. I fondly remember the annual dinners at his home supported by Lucy's culinary abilities.

    My condolences are extended to his dear wife Lucy, and children Lawrence, Iain, David and Caroline and their families, to whom Alan was a wonderful husband and father. He will be sadly missed.

    Geoffrey P Jacobs
    Dr Geoffrey P Jacobs Associates
    Consultants to the Pharmaceutical &
    Medical Device Industries
    POB 3304, Jerusalem 9103301, Israel
    Phones 972 2 6422227 0525509207 Fax: 972 2 6432372


You may also be interested in