In memoriam William Ball
In 2019 we had a vacancy for a tenure track position on space-based observations of air quality. Many high-quality early career scientists applied, and one of them was William Ball. William did not really match with the profile we had in mind for this position but was he good! A top scientist with brilliant ideas, a nice person, friendly, open and communicative, respectfully inquisitive. Should we let him go because his expertise was somewhat out of scope, or should we change our scope? We decided to offer him the job, convinced as we were that he would enrich our department and raise the scientific quality.
Will accepted our offer. While formally he was not available before Spring 2020, he wanted to start working already before that, just to get acquainted with our department and its people. We organized a hospitality arrangement for him. From the very start he mingled easily with the scientific staff, talked to the PhD students during coffee breaks and socialized with the secretariat. He truly showed to be a people’s person and an asset to the academic society. The future was bright.
But then corona came... Everybody had to work from home, which was especially hard for people without a strong social network. Will, having just moved to Rotterdam and starting to develop his social life in the Netherlands, did remarkedly well. He maintained his contacts as good as circumstances allowed and kept up his good and inspiring spirit, even when the first signs of his disease showed. He remained positive.
As the disease progressed, the wish to be closer to his family became stronger. He moved back to the UK to recover, and initially things seemed to turn out good for him. We even discussed the options to do a new project on Antarctic climate, but then the disease returned - stronger than before, and regretfully Will passed away. We miss him, and we will always remember him as the gentle, kind and brilliant person he was.