After gaining his BSc and PhD degrees from the University of Bristol, David Barber worked for Aluminium Research Laboratories, Banbury (now Alcan) for 3 years before leaving for the USA to join the National Bureau of Standards (NBS, now NIST) in Washington, D.C. At NBS he was leader of a group researching into high temperature ceramics for possible use in the American space programme. In 1965 he returned to the UK to join the University of Essex as a lecturer; he was appointed to a personal Chair in 1978. Following periods as Dean, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Head of Department, he took leave of absence in 1991 to help in the setting up of the new University of Science and Technology in Hong Kong, where he had a dual appointment as Professor of Physics and Director of the Materials Characterisation and Preparation Centre. He took early retirement from Essex on returning from Hong Kong in 1996, since when he has been associated with the Physics Department and now with the Physics Centre as an Emeritus Professor.
David Barber has been engaged in research in various aspects of physics, geophysics and materials physics for some 40 years. He was a pioneer in the application of transmission electron microscopy in mineral physics and geophysics. He played a major role in devising techniques for the preparation of non-metallic specimens for electron microscopy, resulting in participation in the American Apollo and Russian Luna programmes. He has researched for some 25 years on materials problems at the interfaces between physics and other sciences and he has published numerous papers on minerals, ceramics, and extraterrestrial materials. More recent research he has been mostly studying microstructure-property inter-relationships in materials which have applications in electronic and opto-electronic devices, especially oxide ferroelectrics. He has authored or co-authored more than 150 scientific publications. He is a Chartered Engineer, a medallist of the Electron Microscopy Society of America, and a Fellow of both the Institute of Physics and the Institute of Materials. He is also a Visiting Professor with the Advanced Materials Group at Cranfield University and a Visiting Professor of Materials Science at the University of Greenwich.