Samuel Curran, internationally respected nuclear physicist and first principal of the University of Strathclyde, was born in Ballymena, County Antrim, his mother's home town, but spent his childhood and youth in Wishaw, Lanarkshire. After schooling at Wishaw High School, Curran graduated with first class honours in mathematics and natural philosophy from Glasgow University and joined the University Physics Department as a PhD student in 1934. He researched the diffraction of beta rays of radium and modified and reconstructed Geiger counters. In 1937, Curran moved to St John's College, Cambridge to continue his studies, and worked alongside his fellow student and future wife, Joan Strothers, in the Cavendish Laboratory. During World War II, they joined a small team developing the proximity fuse, which was highly effective in destroying enemy planes and V1 rockets, and radar installation. Curran was seconded in 1944 to the University of California in Berkeley to work on the separation of isotopes of uranium as part of the Manhattan Project (the development of the atomic bomb) and after a period on the staff of Glasgow University, he assisted with the development of a British hydrogen bomb at the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston in the 1950s. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1953. In 1959, he was invited to become Principal of the Royal College of Science and Technology and to lead the College to University status. He served as principal until his retirement in 1980. Curran was a scientific adviser to government and public bodies, and received many honorary degrees. He was knighted in 1970.