Bill's early scientific career was in high energy particle physics. He transferred to the CLF when it was founded in 1977, where he held the post of Group Leader of Vulcan experiments for many years. In this role he successfully combined his passion for science with facility management. During this time, Bill pioneered the measurement of laser-produced plasma density using alpha particles as a backlighting probe.
In 1986, Bill moved from Vulcan to lead the CLF's newly-formed Laser Support Facility, subsequently re-branded as the Lasers for Science Facility (LSF). This broadened Bill's sphere of influence from physics into the life sciences, chemistry and photo-biology. It also included the establishment of the Laser Loan Pool, delivering laser systems to universities where researchers could use them in combination with their own facilities for “proof of principle" experiments. This often provided newly appointed academic staff with access to state-of-art laser equipment for studies to support grant applications for their early research.
In 1989 Bill was promoted to the position of CLF Deputy Director and Head of the CLF Scientific Operations Division with responsibility for the Vulcan programme, Engineering Support, the LSF, Plasma Theory and Computation. Through his stewardship the LSF grew and prospered. A particular highlight was the award of funding in 1991 for the enhancement of its femtosecond source and a step towards Bill's ambition to provide highly tunable, multi kHz laser systems for time-resolved spectroscopy. These enhancements were accompanied by the growth of a diverse, highly productive scientific programme. Bill's vision, enthusiasm and determination were essential ingredients of this success.
Bill delayed his planned retirement from the CLF to serve as Acting Director during Prof Mike Key's sabbatical in 1995. He subsequently took up a visiting position at Oxford University and became an active user of the LSF himself. He collaborated with numerous university research groups that shared his interests in exploiting time-resolved Raman spectroscopy to obtain structural information on short lived reaction intermediates.
CLF colleagues extend their deepest sympathy to Bill's family and friends.
Image: Bill Toner with Pru Backway from EPSRC and the Laser Support Facility team on the occasion of Bill's last chairmanship of The LSF Scheduling Committee. (95 RC 3869).