David Lingwood was born on 24th October 1959 in Sunderland. He obtained an honours degree in physics from the University of Manchester and subsequently an MBA from the University of Durham. David started his optical design career in 1983 at British Aerospace Dynamics Division in Hatfield, Hertfordshire. He moved to Omitec Electro Optics in February 1989, first in Watford and then, when Omitec moved its main design & engineering activity to North Wales in the early 1990’s, he relocated to Prestatyn . The company was later to become Avimo Optical Imaging.
With the merger of Avimo into the Thales Group, David transferred to St. Asaph in February 2002 and his experience was sufficient by 2007 that he was promoted to Principal Optical Designer, the most senior role in one of the leading optical design groups in the world.
David’s long career in optical design and his abilities allowed him to work on almost all branches of optical systems. The company archives show his significant contributions in everything from simple objective lenses and relays for the print industry, through night vision and infrared objectives, to the most complex of avionic optics used in head-up displays and helmet-mounted displays. David’s ability shone brightly in his development of avionic systems, some of the most demanding in terms of design skill. This, on its own, put him in an exclusive class of a few people around the world.
David’s particular style as a designer was bound up in his character. His was not a style of flamboyance and self-promotion. Rather, he had a style of outward modesty, hiding deep technical understanding, persistence and a strong attention to detail. He was a great support to all the designers in the department, particularly in his ability to problem-solve when others had reached an impasse in design progress. His analytical strength and ability to break down a difficult problem into manageable steps was second to none. This design and programming ability was, however, backed up by knowledge of the practical problems of building optical systems. His manager at Prestatyn, John Blomfield, once commented that "Your engineering instinct is a rare and valuable attribute in an optical designer".
His knowledge of computer software and hardware in fact extended considerably further than most designers’, and was sufficient to make him the IT network system administrator during his time at Avimo in Prestatyn, alongside his optical design position.
David’s modesty was just as prevalent in terms of his outside achievements. With time and friendship, David would gradually reveal the range and depth of his knowledge and interests. However, many people who worked with him for many years never knew he was a keen cyclist, a classic car owner and enthusiast, a saxophone and clarinet player, and an expert in European and American history. It was always fun to see how he reacted when you offered some observation about current affairs; a current scandal in UK politics for example. Invariably he would refer back to an incident in political history many decades ago, as a lesson of history repeating itself. Usually there would be an educational aspect to this: “of course there was a famous speech by Ramsay McDonald in 1934...”, or, “you need to research the Bretton Woods agreement, and the Gold Standard”.
The interest in classic cars was long-standing. With a senior colleague at British Aerospace, David jointly ran the British Aerospace motor club as early as 1986, David serving as treasurer. David had re-built several cars and was always willing to offer help and advice to others; but his attention to detail and maturity also kept the club financial affairs and social events running smoothly.
David’s interaction with us as optical designers was always characterised by a quiet patience and humour. None of us can ever remember hearing an angry word from David, or any loss of control in a meeting with colleagues or with customers. He was naturally diplomatic when conversations turned towards criticism of a colleague, as can happen from time to time! He could always be relied upon to set differences in context and find the common ground from where resolution could be sought. His humour was intelligent, dry and deep-rooted. Everyone who knew him or worked with him for any length of time came to know and appreciate his wry observations. He was universally popular with his peers and the technical and managerial staff within his orbit.
David was a great optical designer and a fine human being. His accidental and tragic death in August 2012 was a significant loss to the world of optics. To those who knew him well, his loss left a painful void in our lives which can never be fully healed. Our sympathies remain with his devoted wife, Karen, with whom he shared eleven years of happy and, no doubt, eventful married life.