At the outbreak of World War II, Bowden, who was Australian and was visiting his home country at the time, was persuaded by the Australian government to set up a research group at Melbourne University to work on the practical problems of lubricants and bearings. DT joined the new laboratory in 1940 and was its head for a short time (1945–1946), when Bowden returned to Cambridge. At that point, at Bowden’s behest, DT suggested the name “tribophysics” to describe their activities, and the Tribophysics Section, which became the CSIRO Division of Tribophysics in 1948, thrived until 1978, when its name was changed to the Division of Materials Science.
While in Australia, David met and married his wife, Hanna. The Tabors rejoined Bowden in Cambridge in 1946 and remained there for the rest of David’s life. The research group at the University of Cambridge, founded by Bowden and led by DT from 1968 until his official retirement in 1981, moved eventually from the Department of Physical Chemistry to the Department of Physics (the Cavendish Laboratory) and changed names several times. For much of its existence, however, it has been the Physics and Chemistry of Solids, and for those fortunate enough to have worked there, it will always be PCS, and David Tabor will always be DT. Despite changes of name, the subject and approach to research pursued by DT and his research group remained constant—to generate a deeper understanding of the physical sciences relevant to problems related to solid surfaces and their interfaces, and especially the science of solids in moving contact now known as tribology,
The laboratory was a carefully managed, almost self-contained research institute with a remarkable reputation complemented by a “family-like” atmosphere. Visitors came from all over the world for long or short periods, and DT, who had a gift for languages, took pride in welcoming each of them in his or her mother tongue. He could probably have done this in at least 17 languages.
DT’s monograph, The Hardness of Metals (1951 and now reissued), based on his early studies of the area of contact between metal surfaces and his wartime research, is still a readable and authoritative account of the scientific basis