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He was born the son of a clergyman, Derman Christopherson (the vicar of Plumstead in southeast London), and Edith Frances Christopherson. Soon afterwards, the Christopherson family moved to Porlock in Devon, where his father was vicar of Clovelly. As a boy, Christopherson suffered from asthma. He was educated privately until, at age 14, he was sent to Sherborne School in Dorset.
He gained a scholarship at University College, Oxford, initially to read Mathematics. Later, in 1937, he achieved a first class degree in Engineering Science. The following year he went to Harvard University in the USA as a Henry Fellow, gaining an SM master's degree in 1938.
He returned to Oxford University as a research assistant to Sir Richard Southwell FRS, working on numerical methods for applied mechanics. He contributed to Southwell's relaxation method. Christopherson was the first to apply the method in the solution of field differential equations, which later became the most important application. He gained his DPhil in 1941.
In 1941, during World War II, Christopherson was appointed as a Scientific Officer in the Ministry of Home Security, working in the research and experimental department with Sir Reginald Stradling. His work involved investigating the effects of explosives on buildings, shelters, and firefighting (he worked with Solly Zuckerman and Hugh Cairns on researching helmet designs - see Zuckerman helmet).
Most of Christopherson's research was conducted at the University of Oxford (1937–41), the University of Cambridge (1945–49), and the University of Leeds (1949–55). He contributed to lubrication research especially. He was a lecturer in engineering at Cambridge. Christopherson was then appointed Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Leeds and became the head of the department in 1949. He left Leeds to become Professor of Applied Science with special reference to Engineering at Imperial College, London until 1960.
Christopherson was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1960. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. He was Vice-Chancellor and Warden of the University of Durham (1960–1979) and then Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge (1978–1985). In 1983 he became the second Chairman of the Standing Committee on Structural Safety, succeeding The Rt. Hon. the Lord Penney. He served as such until 1988.
Derman married Frances Edith Tearle, daughter of James and Martha, in 1940 and they had four children; one of his children was the musician, video director and designer Peter Christopherson. His wife pre-deceased him in 1988.
He is buried at the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge, with his wife.
- On being a technologist. London: S.C.M. Press, 1959.
- The University at Work. London: S.C.M. Press, 1973. Published for the University Teachers' Group. ISBN 0-334-01734-3.
- Dowson, Duncan; Higginson, Gordon (2004). "Sir Derman Guy Christopherson. 6 September 1915 -- 7 November 2000: Elected F.R.S. 1960". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 50: 47. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2004.0005. JSTOR 4140510.
- Hannah Guy, The history of Imperial College London, 1907–2007, Imperial College Press, 2007. Page 360.
Prof. Sir James Fitzjames Duff
|Vice-Chancellor & Warden of the University of Durham
Prof. Sir Frederick Holliday
|Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge
Sir David Calcutt