A FRENCH scientist who has just been named joint winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize in physics was once better known in Otley as a rugby player.

Albert Fert, together with German scientist Peter Gruen-berg, have shared the award for their independent discoveries, in the 1980s, of a process allowing huge amounts of data to be squeezed into ever-smaller spaces - now used by billions of people on their computers and digital music players.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, in its citation for the prize, said the technique "can also be considered one of the first real applications of the promising field of nanotechnology."

But while the scientific world may be queuing up to applaud Professor Fert''s achievement, older sports fans in Wharfedale may also be thinking 'that name rings a bell'.

The scientist, born in 1938, actually played in the back row for Otley RUFC in the mid 1970s, mostly in the second team.

He was in West Yorkshire at the time, working with professors Jim Morgan and Denis Greig on the conduction of electricity by magnetic metals at the University of Leeds.

  • The Wharfedale & Airedale Observer is indebted to Dr Chris Marrows, reader in condensed matter physics at the University of Leeds' School of Physics and Astronomy, for this information.