Emeritus Professor Alban Lynch AO

In Memoriam

Professor Alban Lynch and a Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre  (JKMRC) Researcher

Professor Alban Lynch AO and a JKMRC researcher. Image supplied by the JKMRC Library

Professor Alban Lynch AO and a JKMRC researcher. Image supplied by the JKMRC Library

Along with the Lynch family, Professor Alban Lynch had another family: and that is the JKMRC family which stretches across the globe.

Emeritus Professor Don McKee reflects on his long time friend and colleague.

Professor Alban Lynch AO. Image supplied by the JKMRC Library

There are many people from JKMRC who could talk about Alban’s professional career. While we would all say something different, at heart the thoughts would be very similar.

I begin by acknowledging the role Alban's wife, Barbara, played in the Alban Lynch story. Barbara was a kind and gracious lady who provided her husband with the opportunity to pursue his dreams. Barbara did so much to build the JK family, as a hostess at their home and in welcoming new students, particularly those from overseas. She travelled the world with Alban during his retirement when the pull of grandchildren must have been so great.

Black and white portrait of Professor Alban Lynch AO

Professor Alban Lynch AO. Image supplied by the JKMRC Library

Professor Alban Lynch AO. Image supplied by the JKMRC Library

Gold Mine wide shot

Adobe Stock/Creaturart

Gold Mine wide shot

Adobe Stock/Creaturart

So, what is Alban’s legacy? I think some simple words do justice, he made a real difference.

He was personally responsible for developing technologies which transformed mineral grinding practice. In this Alban and the late Bill Whiten formed a powerful partnership.

This work so impressed Mount Isa Mines Ltd that the company provided the funds to establish the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre in 1970. By the time Alban retired from the JK in1989, he had built the Centre into a world leading research group.

Alban Lynch at work. Image supplied by the JKMRC Libraray

He pioneered effective ways of connecting university research with industry. We frequently hear today of the need to establish such links. Alban showed the way 60 years ago.

From the earliest, Alban had an international outlook, taking his work globally. This paid off handsomely in another way as international students and technical visitors enriched the research and broader social life of the Centre. By the mid-1990s the JK was a United Nations. The international flow continued into his retirement as he spread the word during his travels.

This brings me to perhaps Alban’s greatest legacy.  His contribution to education was profound. The concept of a different type of postgraduate, doing experiments in mines and plants, was novel. He lectured undergraduates, gave courses to the industry, and he was a prolific author of textbooks. Technology transfer, where research outcomes find ready application in industry, naturally followed from his education initiatives.

And finally, he inspired people with the invaluable lesson that they should be bold in their personal aspirations. Alban inspired me and I owe him my gratitude for that.

In a seminar presented after his retirement he spelled out his personal mantra for research success:

- Work closely with industry
- Concentrate on the big problems
- Put trust in the energy of postgraduate students
- Keep a low profile in the university

Professor Alban Lynch AO and the staff of the JKMRC at the 2021 Mill Operators Conference. Image supplied by Assoc Prof Mohsen Yahyaei

The university comment was a bit tongue in cheek. He did keep his distance, but he made sure to be well-connected with the decision makers at St Lucia.

What of the man himself? We all have our Alban stories. I will share one from my student days. Alban was normally a softly spoken man. At a Conference in 1971 I realized he had two speaking voices – the second was the powerful one used when addressing an audience. In those days a CSIRO group was doing similar modelling work, led by Denis Kelsall. Alban and Kelsall did not exactly get along. Their personalities were polar opposites, as was their research approach. A CSIRO paper questioned the Lynch approach. Alban clearly anticipated the attack, and strode from the audience with prepared overheads, and went into battle. It was a riveting encounter.  Kelsall became so enraged that he shouted “God Almighty, and that includes you Dr Lynch, can’t say that.” It was water off a duck’s back. To the Lynch faction, he had a clear points win.

Alban Lynch early in his career. Image supplied by the JKMRC Library

Alban had his disappointments and some came in the last year. The forced cancellation of a large family gathering to celebrate his 90th birthday in August last year was one. So was the postponed celebration of the 50th anniversary of the JK the next month.  The travel restrictions this year which prevented family visits were a sad blow. He bore them stoically.

Black and white image of Alban Lynch at work

Alban Lynch at work. Image supplied by the JKMRC Libraray

Alban Lynch at work. Image supplied by the JKMRC Libraray

Professor Alban Lynch AO and the staff of the JKMRC at the 2021 Mill Operators Conference

Professor Alban Lynch AO and the staff of the JKMRC at the 2021 Mill Operators Conference. Image supplied by Assoc Prof Mohsen Yahyaei

Professor Alban Lynch AO and the staff of the JKMRC at the 2021 Mill Operators Conference. Image supplied by Assoc Prof Mohsen Yahyaei

Black and white image of Alban Lynch at the outset of his career

Alban Lynch early in his career. Image supplied by the JKMRC Library

Alban Lynch early in his career. Image supplied by the JKMRC Library

We now farewell a great man, one who made a real difference. On behalf of the family, thank you for your messages of support.
Emeritus Professor Don McKee
Old coloured image of Professor Alban Lynch and JKMRC Staff outside