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Mr. LTH - always at the centre of events

2011-01-31

Skotte Mårtensson.

In September a major anniversary will be celebrated in Lund. LTH will have been in existence for 50 years and this must be celebrated. At the centre of the celebrations is a person who has experienced all these years at close quarters, the many-talented Skotte Mårtensson.

He is on the jubilee committee that is planning the celebrations and jubilee year at the Faculty of Engineering, and is also one of the editors of a commemorative book that will come out in September.

Over the years, Skotte Mårtensson has held a long line of different positions at LTH: lecturer, researcher in electronic engineering, dean, inspector and initiator of many educational experiments, to name just a few. Today he is proud of ‘his’ LTH, which started as a reflection of KTH but today has its own profile as a research-intensive school of engineering and an increasingly diverse teaching institution.

Skotte Mårtensson is born and bred in Malmö, the son of a stationer. He was educated at Malmö högre tekniska läroverk, which he left in 1957. The name Skotte often gives rise to questions.

“In the 1930s in Malmö there was a relatively successful runner called Skotte Jakobsson. Because it was a leap year and my parents were expecting me on 29 February (known as skottdagen in Swedish), they chose the name Skotte. Although I was actually born a few days late, he explains.

The young Skotte was very interested in electronics and his upper secondary school physics teacher, Lennart Stigmark, encouraged him to apply for a job as a technician at Fysikum in Lund when the first synchrotron was to be built. Skotte Mårtensson did not get the job, as he had not yet done his military service, but Professor Sven Johansson encouraged him to take a preparatory course in physics.

In time, Skotte Mårtensson gained a licentiate in physics and in 1963 he applied for a position as a senior lecturer at the new LTH. He later gained a PhD in applied electronics there. His research has mostly concerned atomic frequency standards – atomic clocks for accurate measurement of frequency.

As a lecturer he soon became aware of the need for computer knowledge for his colleagues and arranged for the computer scientists to give the lecturers courses. He also realised that the engineers’ teaching skills were not always great and organised training days. Teaching via television was also a hot topic in connection with the planning of the Linköping Institute of Technology. Along with Gunnar Markesjö from KTH, Skotte Mårtensson found himself in a working group that prepared for this.

“We discussed common issues such as examinations and the important features of the courses. We gradually played down the role of television because we didn’t really believe in it”, he says.

In the 1970s a directive came from Stockholm that every faculty was to have a programmes director, and Skotte Mårtensson was proposed from LTH. However, it was thought that it would be difficult for one person to cover the whole of LTH, so instead directors of studies were appointed for the five divisions. Education planners were also appointed.

“We discussed education and some recruitment matters and presented proposals in consensus. It’s not surprising that we got our way.” Some people called these new powers that be ‘the cruel group’...

From 1976 to 1980, Skotte Mårtensson was inspector for Teknologkåren, the students’ union. One of his tasks in that role was to save the students’ function room, Lophtet.

In the 1980s he was dean of E-sektionen and one of those who worked hardest to establish LTH’s computer science programme. When it started, E-huset was extended, with new wings so that there would be space for both sections. The premises were officially opened on the same day as Ideon, 29 April 1986.Skotte Mårtensson was later active in the Ideon LTH Network.

In 1987 he became dean of the whole of LTH, which was then in cooperation with the Faculty of Mathematics and Science. Professor Bertil Thörnell from LTH was dean of the two faculties jointly. However, the cooperation did not work well in practice and was broken off again in 1990.

Skotte Mårtensson wanted to speed up the computerisation of education, which was going much slower than in research. Together with pro-dean Kjell-Åke Modéer from the Faculty of Law, he travelled to the USA and came home with Sweden’s first Mac computers in 1984. Lund University was soon Europe’s first Apple university.

CITU was another teaching-related task in the 1990s. Then he also took over Bodil Jönsson’s courses in history of science and started the optional course ‘The History of Engineering’, within which he still gives guest lectures.

An early attempt at distance learning using IT was called Komet. Skotte Mårtensson worked with Jonas af Klerker and the telecoms agency Televerket. In 1994 he started LTH’s alumni association together with president of the students’ union Henrik Isaksson.

“Initially all those who were interested were asked to register their interest by fax – unwisely enough. In the morning, the fax room was full of no end of damp fax sheets and they had run out, so we probably missed a lot of interested former students”, says Skotte.

Technolution is perhaps the task he has enjoyed the most. Dean Thomas Johannesson felt that the link between humans and technology should be strengthened. A professor of human-technology interaction would fill the gap, and when architect Peter Broberg showed his stylised drawings that depicted human development as a technical being under the heading Technolution, the matter was decided. Skotte Mårtensson, with his interest in the history of engineering was invited to participate in the centre.

“That was the most enjoyable thing I’ve done. I was very inspired by Peter Broberg and our cooperation was the start of a close friendship.”

The commemorative book, which is now at the planning stage, features a number of guest authors and interviews with those of the very first professors who are still alive. Material from the magazines Ordo, LTH-nytt, Pålsjö ängsblad and LUM will be re-used.

Mats Nygren

Footnote: The author of this article, Mats Nygren, is, together with Skotte Mårtensson, one of the editors of the commemorative book that will come out in time for the anniversary in September.