Archives for posts with tag: Professor Leslie Jesch

Professor Leslie Jesch set up a solar energy laboratory at Birmingham University which attracted PhD students from all over the world

Leslie Jesch

Ed: revisiting the ‘Solar Pioneers of Bournville’ page, in order to insert information received from a local resident, I noticed a rise in the numbers of viewers in August and that the Guardian search engine accounted for many of these. The link led to an obituary for Professor Jesch, who had made such a contribution to the pioneering work of the Bournville Village Trust. So many had asked whether he was still with us and I could only say that no record of his death had been found. To avoid breaching copyright only a few paragraphs about his time in Birmingham are reproduced or summarised on this website, but the article may be read in full here:

Judith Jesch: Tuesday 2 August 2016 

After an MSc from the University of Pennsylvania (1962), Leslie did a PhD in mechanical engineering at the University of Leeds (1970), which brought about a change of both career and country when he took up a lectureship in mechanical engineering at the University of Birmingham.

At Birmingham, Leslie developed his expertise in solar energy and set up a solar energy laboratory, which thrived and attracted PhD students from all over the world. Realising its potential, Leslie became active in the International Solar Energy Society, becoming its vice-president and receiving a special service award from the UK branch in 1999.

He stimulated many European collaborations through ISES-Europe, of which he became president. He set up the Franklin Company, which provided consultancy in solar energy systems, and edited and published several solar journals, notably Sun at Work in Europe, giving work and a launch pad to many of his students. Leslie also wrote a monograph (Solar Energy Today, 1981) and a range of technical papers.

In Birmingham, my parents lived in Rowheath Solar Village in Bournville, which he had helped to design. In retirement, they pursued their lifelong interests in theatre, concerts and travelling, and their garden parties were legendary. Leslie is survived by my mother Katherine, who like him anglicised her name when in the US, and myself.

Endnote from  the TES obituary:

Ljubomir Jankovic, professor of zero carbon design at Birmingham City University, recalls “join[ing] the Solar Energy Lab at Birmingham University” in 1984 to start a PhD on the project, “where my PhD supervisor, Leslie Jesch, had designed passive and active solar systems. This development was the largest of [its] kind in northern Europe and the houses were affordable for first-time buyers.”

It was from Dr Jesch, Professor Jankovic went on, that he acquired “a strong passion for improving building performance through capturing solar energy” and learned the value of sheer hard work – carrying out “computational experiments and data analysis all day and all night” – in “striving to make a better world”.

Dr Jesch was eminent in this field, becoming Director and Vice President of the UK-Section of the International Solar Energy Society and Editor of Sunworld. See eleven references in a history of the first 30 years of UK-ISES here.




tom greevesThe Bournville area of Birmingham has had a pioneering role in the use of solar energy in Britain and a paper which briefly describes this has been commissioned by Greening the North in memory of the late Tom Greeves, who was inspired by reading The Limits to Growth by the Club of Rome.

This book, which reported that continued economic growth using existing technology was not sustainable and could threaten everyone’s future survival, led him to study electronic engineering in order to develop the clean and efficient technologies that were going to have to replace existing fuels.

Tom Greeves was an engineer at Cadbury’s in Bournville, and became a trustee of the Bournville Village Trust (BVT), serving for 32 years, from 1971 to 2003 and acting as vice-chair for 14 years. He contributed his technical knowledge and his long term commitment to solar energy.

He worked with Professor Leslie Jesch of Birmingham University to implement designs for houses that were solar heated by very large south-facing windows and conservatories. Together with Dr. Lubo Jankovic and the Solar Energy Lab at Birmingham University, they demonstrated that ordinary houses in the British climate with solar energy could show a major reduction in the fuel required to heat them.

A new low energy housing development by the BVT at Lower Shenley, was the last housing project with which Tom Greeves was involved before he retired from the Trust. The Bournville solar principles were extended to 167 homes, using input from local eco-architect John Christophers of Associated Architects, who designed the houses with glazed sun spaces and solar water heating.

Retirement did not mean inactivity however, and he made a valuable contribution to setting up Northfield Eco-centre and improving the energy efficiency of Cotteridge Friends Meeting House which became an exemplar of a low carbon community building, having cut energy use by over 90%.

solar pioneers cover bestThe late Sir Adrian Cadbury described the draft paper as an admirable account of Tom’s practical championship, backed by his technical knowledge, of solar power:

”He understood the impact of climate change and through the Northfield Ecocentre demonstrated how at community level we could all play our part in adapting our lives to its impact. At Bournville he made a great contribution to the introduction of new methods through his work in the Research & Development Department.

“The draft is a remarkably consistent record of advances in the application of technology for community benefit, all of it driven by Tom for the public good. It is an inspiring record which through Tom’s modesty would not have been appreciated without this background research.

“Tom was a real pioneer, wonderfully modest and unassuming. His inspiration and example will be greatly missed”.

Read the well-illustrated paper here: