A special session in the 2013 conference on the Wear of Materials is scheduled in recognition of the centenary of the birth of Professor David Tabor (1913-2005). He remained active in research from 1936 until the late 1990s, for most of this time at the University of Cambridge. For the first
32 years he worked closely with Professor Philip Bowden.
Tabor’s leadership in tribological topics is legend. His students are found over the face of the earth, many of whom are themselves engaged in research. He was unique in his approach and in his leadership. Most investigators are satisfied to attack a problem with a few obvious hypotheses, but Tabor developed his hypotheses after close observation of the behavior of the system under study. He was the ultimate empiricist and one who completed his work by quantifying his results.
A short list of Tabor’s works include:
- Evidence that adhesion (atomic bonding) is the major cause of friction in distinction to the asperity interlocking (interference) theory.
- The indentation hardness of metals.
- Deformation losses in sliding and rolling, particularly in polymers and rubber, leading to guidelines for the formulation of rubber for vehicle tires.
- The idea that sliding lines up the surface molecules of linear polymers, which leads to higher wear rate when sliding across the previous sliding path. One practical issue is in the wear of artificial bone joints.
- The chemical aspects of lubrication wherein a film of low shear strength forms on metal surfaces to lubricate. This included oxides and other crystalline substance and explains the wide range of coefficient of friction of most materials.
- Metal cutting.
- The frictional properties of ice and snow (shared with Bowden).
- Electro-chemically enhanced wear.
- Surface force measurement.
- The unique low friction properties of teflon and graphite.