My friend John Abbott, who has died of cancer aged 63, was a talented mathematician and liberal-minded individual who improved the air that we breathe. John was the first (in 2005) to understand that nitrogen dioxide concentrations were not decreasing as expected. A decade later, this is now widely known and understood, with diesel cars being particularly high emitters, and has led to a revision of the vehicle emission standards in Europe.

John was born and brought up in Bishop’s Stortford, the son of Peter Abbott, a technical telecommunications officer with the Civil Aviation Authority, and his wife, Jean, a BT telephone operator with BT. He excelled at Newport grammar school, Essex, and graduated with a first in chemical engineering from Leeds University. He joined the Warren Spring Laboratory, Stevenage, which was then a government lab. There he developed improved methods for efficient bulk handling of materials, contributing to greater energy efficiency and the suppression of pollution.

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Source: Guardian Environment