Born in Berlin, Ash emigrated with his family to Britain in 1938 to escape Nazism. Educated at the independent University College School, he won a scholarship to Imperial College London aged 17, and after graduating in electrical engineering, he continued his studies with doctoral research. His Ph.D. supervisor was Dennis Gabor, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, and his thesis was published as Electron Interaction Effects (1952). He worked on microwave tubes as a Fulbright scholar at Stanford University for two years, before returning to the UK with his American wife, Clare, to continue this work at the Standard Telecommunications Laboratory (now Nortel) in London.
He joined the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at University College London (UCL) in 1963, became a full Professor in 1967 and was appointed Head of Department, and holder of the Pender Chair, in 1980. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society on 17 March 1977, and was awarded its Clifford Paterson medal shortly afterwards. He worked on problems in physical electronics, ultrasonic signal processing and imaging. He won the Marconi Prize in 1984 "for leadership in electronic technology, including surface acoustic wave devices and optical fibre communications". He won the Royal Society Royal Medal in 1986, in "recognition of his outstanding researches on acoustic microscopy leading to wholly new techniques and substantial improvements in resolution of acoustic microscopes". He also won the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE, now IET) Faraday Medal. He is also a Senior Member and Life Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (an organisation based in the United States that complements the IET).
After retiring as Rector 1993 he was an emeritus Professor in the Department of Physics at UCL, 1993–1998, working on educational technology. He acted as CEO of the Student Loans Company 1994–1996, remaining a non-executive director of the company until the end of August 2000. He was Treasurer and Vice-President of the Royal Society 1997-2002. He has also served as a trustee of a number of other organisations including the Afghan Educational Trust, the Dennis Rosen Memorial Trust, the Royal Institution, the Science Museum (London) and the Wolfson Foundation. He is a member of the Advisory Council of the Campaign for Science and Engineering.
|Rector of Imperial College London