Dr Leslie Robert Shepherd

(1918 – )

Dr L. R. Shepherd

Dr L. R. Shepherd

Born in 1918 in Pontycymmer, a coal-mining village of South Wales, Shepherd graduated from University College, London in 1940 with first-class honours BSc in Physics. During the War years he served as a research assistant on a Government project at the Royal Society Mond Laboratory, Cambridge. On the conclusion of this project Shepherd was persuaded to remain in Cambridge for post-graduate studies as a research student at St. Catherine’s College where he was awarded a PhD in 1948 for “Magnetic Spectrometer Studies on Radioactive Isotopes”. In October 1948 he joined the Atomic Energy Department of the Ministry of Supply (later to become the UK Atomic Energy Authority), becoming involved with fast reactor technology at AERE Harwell.

While he became a member of the BIS in the early part of 1935, he played no active part in its pre-War activities. He was present at the first post-War meeting of the Society in 1945, becoming a member of Council and the Society’s Technical Director in 1946. In 1949, with Val Cleaver he produced one of the first detailed papers on the application of nuclear energy to the problem of interplanetary flight, and followed this in 1952 with a paper on “Interstellar Flight.”

In 1956 he became deputy head of a newly formed team to develop a High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor (HTR), partly as a consequence of his known studies on nuclear rocket propulsion. He became leader of this team in the summer of 1956 on the departure of its initial head, Peter Fortescue. In 1959 the HTR project was transformed into an international collaborative project, the Dragon Reactor, based at AEE Winfrith in Dorset. He was Head of Research and Development for the first eight years of the project, and from 1968 to its termination in 1976 was its Chief Executive. In 1977, on leave from the UKAEA, he spent a year in the USA on the staff of Ramco, conducting a study on the commercialisation of gas-cooled reactors, before returning to AEE Winfrith until his retirement in 1983.

In 1950 he was one of the five BIS Council members involved in the founding of the International Astronautical Federation, organizing the second annual Congress in London in 1951. He served as President of the IAF from 1956 – 1957, and later again in 1962 on the death of the incumbent President, Joseph Peres. He was also Chairman (later President) of the BIS between 1953 and 1960 and again in 1966/7, and one of the founding members of the International Academy of Astronautics in 1959.

In 1991 at the 42nd IAF Congress in Montreal, Shepherd’s contribution to the development of the IAF was acknowledged with the award of a special, illuminated Certificate of Recognition.

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