22 March 2013
Marcelin Fortes da Cruz, a PhD student in the Safety Systems Research Centre in the Faculty of Engineering, died suddenly on 10 February 2013. Arthur Lawrence, Silke Kuball and John May offer an appreciation.
Marcelin was born in Dakar, Senegal, but moved to France to study aerospace engineering. As a young engineer he worked at TACV Cape Verde Airlines and Air Afrique in Ivory Coast before moving back to France to take up a position with Airbus in Toulouse. He later moved to the UK to work with Airbus UK in Bristol and registered to study part time for a PhD at the University in 2005.
Desipite having lived with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) for 17 years, Marcelin had a wonderful and inspiring outlook on life. A couple of years ago this horrible disease put him in hospital for almost six months and he lost the ability to breathe and eat without assistance. Yet when friends visited him in hospital, even when he was extremely ill, they came away in a positive frame of mind.
When eventually Marcelin came out of hospital, with the aid of a daytime carer and his partner Tessa, such was his determination that he managed to regain his ability to eat (although he still had a feeding tube) and could breathe unaided again.
Marcelin was applying mathematical formalisms to understand and aid the process of designing engineering artefacts. The importance he attached to this research is evident from his PhD studies, which were conducted while working at Airbus. In working towards his ambitious research goals, he combined wide mathematical reading with a considerable experience of aircraft engineering, and training in artificial intelligence techniques. This, combined with a fierce independence of thought, was a powerful combination.
Marcelin had an incredibly strong faith and a wonderful sense of self-deprecatory humour. He was an extremely valued team member, who possessed not only technical but also emotional intelligence and was always empathic. He was a familiar sight in the Queen’s Building using his motorised chair, the workings of which he probably understood better than its designers.
Marcelin passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly; so suddenly no definite cause of death could be established. It may be that MND finally affected his heart. Shortly before his death, he had applied for two promotions within Airbus UK; such was the spirit and energy of this amazing man.
A conversation with Marcelin was always interesting, challenging, and enjoyable, whether technical or otherwise. He had a wonderful way with people and was great fun to talk to. We can only guess at what might have been achieved if Marcelin had been able to pursue his studies unencumbered. There are very few people who can be truly said to be ‘inspirational’. Marcelin was one of them.
He leaves a partner Tessa, four children, and many colleagues and friends who will miss him greatly.
Marcelin Fortes da Cruz