Basil John Mason

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John Mason
Born Basil John Mason
18 August 1923[1]
Docking, Norfolk, England
Died 6 January 2015(2015-01-06) (aged 91)
Alma mater University College, Nottingham
Notable awards

Sir Basil John Mason, CB, FRS (18 August 1923 – 6 January 2015), better known as John Mason, was an expert on cloud physics[2] and former Director-General of the Met Office from 1965 to 1983 and Chancellor of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) from 1994 to 1996.[1][3]

Education and early life[edit]

Mason was born in Docking, Norfolk.[4] and educated at Fakenham Grammar School and University College, Nottingham.[1]


His work includes the Mason Equation, giving the growth or evaporation of small water droplets. He worked at Imperial College London from 1948 to 1965, where he was appointed as a lecturer in meteorology in 1948, and was made professor of cloud physics in 1961.

In the 1960s, he helped to modernise the World Meteorological Organization.

Awards and honours[edit]

In 1965, he was awarded the Chree Medal[5] by the Institute of Physics and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was Director of the UK Meteorological Office from 1965 to 1983, and was President of the Royal Meteorological Society from 1968 to 1970,[6] and is an honorary member of that society, and President of the Institute of Physics from 1976 to 1978. In 1972 he received the Rumford Medal from the Royal Society.[7]

In 1973, he was made a companion of the Order of the Bath. In 1974 he was invited to deliver the MacMillan Memorial Lecture to the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland. He chose the subject 'Recent Developments in Weather Forecasting'. From 1974 he has been a Fellow at Imperial College. He was Treasurer for the Royal Society from 1976 to 1986.[8] From 1976 to 1978 he was President of the Institute of Physics. In 1979, he was knighted for his services to meteorology. He gave the Royal Society's 1990 Rutherford Memorial Lecture in Canada.[9] In 1991 he received the Royal Medal of the Royal Society.[10] He was Chancellor of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology until 1996, when he was succeeded by Sir Roland Smith. In 1998 he received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Reading.

The National Portrait Gallery contains a portrait of Mason.[11] In 2004, Mason opened the Mason Centre for Environmental Flows at the University of Manchester. In 2006, an endowment from Mason enabled the Royal Meteorological Society to establish the Mason Gold Medal.[12] Mason was also Chairman of the British Physics Olympiad Committee. He died in 2015.[13]


  • The Physics of Clouds (1957)
  • Clouds, Rain and Rainmaking (1962)
  • The Surface Waters Acidification Programme (editor, 1990)
  • Acid Rain: Its Causes and its Effects on Inland Waters (1992)
  • Highlights in Environmental Research - Professorial Inaugural Lectures at Imperial College (editor, 2000).
  • B.J. Mason (1957) The Physics of Clouds Oxford University Press