Authorised form of nameTabor; David (1913 - 2005)
Dates1913 - 2005
Date of birth23/10/1913
Date of death26/11/2005
Regent Street Polytechnic Secondary School; scholarship to study physics at Royal College of Science in South Kensington (now Imperial College), remaining there to do a Ph.D for 'The area of caontact between stationary and moving surfaces' (1939)
Experimental physicist largely responsible for creating the modern science of tribology, which concerns the molecular causes of friction and wear betweeen solids. During his research at the Royal College of Science was invited by Australian born physicist F P Bowden to join him at Cambridge, where he worked until Bowden's death in 1968. Worked in Australia for the government's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, returning to Cambridge in 1946. Established a research group on the Physics and Chemistry of Surfaces in Cambridge's Department of Physical Chemistry, of which Tabor became head on Bowden's death, supervising its move to the Cavendish Laboratory. Elected Fellow of Gonville and Caius College (1957). Officially retired in 1981, but kept an office in the Cavendish Laboratory, where he continued to work.
Membership categoryFellow
Date of election21/03/1963
Age at election49
Royal Society activityMedals and prizes:
Royal Medal 1992
RelationshipsMarried Hanna Stillschweig in 1943. Had two sons.
Published works'The Friction and Lubricationof Solids', written with F P Bowden and published in two volumes in 1950 and 1964
'Address of the President, Sir Michael Atiyah, OM, Given at the Anniversary Meeting on 30 November 1992' in NR 1993 vol 47 pp 109-118
N N Greenwood and J A Spink, 'An antipodean laboratory of remarkable distinction' in NR 2002 vol 57 pp 85-105

Biographical Memoirs of the Fellows of the Royal Society Vol 54, 2008, pp425-460
Obituary in the 'Daily Telegraph' (12/01/2006)
Royal Society codeNA1072
Archives associated with this Fellow
Reference numberTitleDate
EC/1963/24Tabor, David: certificate of election to the Royal Society
IM/004485Tabor, David1994
IM/GA/RGRS/8060Tabor, David1977
DM/7Domestic Manuscripts Volume 71857-1884
RR/70/234Referee's report by Richard Vynne Southwell, on a paper 'A simple theory of static and dynamic hardness' by David Tabor20 June 1947
RR/65/32Referee's report by Charles Herbert Lees, on a paper 'The area of contact between stationary and moving surfaces' by Frank Philip Bowden and David TaborApril 1938
RR/73/29Referee's report by Eric Keightley Rideal, on a paper 'Adhesion and friction and the effect of surface films' by J S MacFarlane and David Tabor 24 January 1950
RR/73/28Referee's report by Eric Keightley Rideal, on a paper 'Adhesion of solids and the effect of surface films' by J S MacFarlane and David Tabor 23 January 1950
RR/73/145Letter from Neil Kensington Adam, on two papers by David Tabor, James Woodham Menter and J V Sanders to D C Martin, Assistant Secretary of the Royal Society26 June 1950
RR/73/146Referee's report by Neil Kensington Adam, on a paper 'Orientation of fatty acid and soap films on metal surfaces' by James Woodham Menter and David Tabor26 June 1950
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