Ernest William Titterton
|Sir Ernest William Titterton|
4 March 1916|
|Died||8 February 1990
|Institutions||University of Birmingham
Australian National University
|Alma mater||University of Birmingham|
|Doctoral advisor||Mark Oliphant|
|Known for||Nuclear physics|
Ernest William Titterton, was born of William Alfred and Elizabeth Titterton in Kettlebrook, Tamworth, UK, on 4 March 1916.
Titterton's primary education began next door to the family home in Kettlebrook at a single-room school for infants, starting at the age of four. After two years, his studies moved to a boys-only school in Glascote, Tamworth. This council school in a mining town had basic science facilities (uncommon at that time), and it was there that his interest in science was first kindled. At ten, Titterton won a scholarship to attend Queen Elizabeth's Grammar school (Tamworth), where he performed consistently well. After topping the class frequently, he entered to sixth form, which was at that time reserved for gifted students expected to continue to study at a tertiary level. Ernest studied mathematics, physics and chemistry, and under the tutelage of physics teacher William Summerhayes, he thrived.
In 1934, Titterton was accepted into University of Birmingham on a scholarship basis. Due to his achievements at secondary school, Ernest was allowed to begin his tertiary studies with second-year subjects, and even then he was said to have found them easy. He obtained his Bachelor of Science in 1936 with distinctions in both pure and applied mathematics and, of course, physics. An honours year quickly followed, and Titterton topped the year in Physics.
One year later, Ernest was presented with a University scholarship, and worked in a research position under Professor Mark Oliphant. The project he shared with another student was to determine if the weak alpha activity of samarium was due to the electron or gamma ray components of cosmic rays. Upon completion of these experiments, Titterton was awarded a Master of Science in 1938. As a requirement of his scholarship, Ernest was required to become a teacher for a year. This met a lukewarm reception, but he graduated from the Diploma in Education, and was even awarded the Elizabeth Cadbury Prize for achieving top in the class.
After a call from Oliphant, who wanted to develop a small wavelength radiation generator, Titterton worked as a research officer with the British Admiralty for the early part of the second world war, working on radar systems. Though the work was classed top-secret, he was allowed to submit it to Birmingham and was awarded a PhD in physics in 1941.
Moving into nuclear research
After his studies in radar, Titterton decided to pursue an interest in nuclear technology and joined the British Scientific Mission in USA, which was working on the development of the first nuclear weapons. In July 1945 he was a senior member of the timing group that fired the first nuclear weapon at Alamogordo, New Mexico. A year later he was promoted to Chief Instrumentation Advisor to the Task Force Commander at the Bikini Atoll nuclear weapons testing facility. For the following year, he was Head of Electronics in the Los Alamos laboratory.
In August 1950, Titterton was appointed Foundation Professor to the Chair of Nuclear Physics at the Australian National University. However, his international interests continued and he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences of London and the American Physical Society, both in 1952. In 1954 a similar honour was bestowed upon him as one of the earliest fellows of the Australian Academy of Science.
For the next thirty years, Titterton held high positions on various science, defense and nuclear-related committees, institutes and councils in Australia, including: Australian Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee (1954–1956), Australian Atomic Energy Commission's Scientific Advisory Committee (1955–1964), Council of the Institute of Defence Science, Department of Supply (1957–1972), Australian Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee (1957–1973), National Radiation Advisory Committee (1957–1973), Federal Government's Defence Research and Development Policy Committee( 1958–1973), Council of the Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering (1960–1984), Council of the Australian Academy of Science (1964–1966), Advisory Committee of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (1967–1981)
During this time, Titterton continued to pursue his academic interests at the Australian National University, and was the Dean of the Research School of Physical Sciences, Director of the Research School of Physical Sciences (1969–1973), a professor of nuclear physics (1973–1981). He was a member of the council of Macquarie University (1978–1984).
Titterton was a strong public advocate of nuclear power for Australia.
Titterton officially retired in 1981, but retained a position as a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Nuclear Physics of the Australian National University. He divorced in 1986, and was injured seriously in a car accident, which required him to use a wheelchair full-time. He died on 8 February 1990.
- Brian Martin (1980). "Nuclear Knights". Rupert Public Interest Movement.