Constance Tipper

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Constance Fligg Elam Tipper
Born 6 February 1894
New Barnet, Hertfordshire
Died 14 December 1995 (aged 101)
Penrith, Cumbria
Education Newnham College, Cambridge
Occupation Metallurgist
Spouse(s) George Tipper

Constance Fligg Elam Tipper (6 February 1894 – 14 December 1995) was an English metallurgist and crystallographer.

Constance Tipper specialized in the investigation of metal strength and its effect on engineering problems. During World War II she investigated the causes of brittle fracture in Liberty Ships. These ships were built in the US between 1941 and 1945, and were the first all-welded pre-fabricated cargo ships.

Tipper established that the fractures were not caused by welding, but rather by the steel itself. She demonstrated that there is a critical temperature below which the fracture mode in steel changes from ductile to brittle. Because ships in the North Atlantic were subjected to low temperatures, they were susceptible to brittle failure. These fatigue cracks were able to spread across the ship's welded joint plates, instead of stopping at plate edges of a riveted joint, as previously used.

In 1949 Tipper was appointed Reader and became the only woman to be a full-time member of the Faculty of Engineering of Cambridge University.

She was the first person to use a scanning electron microscope (SEM) to examine metallic fracture faces. She used a scanning electron microscope built by Charles Oatley and his team, the second SEM ever built.

She retired in 1960. Her 100th birthday in 1994 was celebrated by Newnham College with the planting of the Tipper Tree, a sweet chestnut.


  • "The Production of Single Crystals of Aluminium and their Tensile Properties" (with H. C. H. Carpenter). Proceedings of the Royal Society of London (1921).
  • Deformation of Metal Crystals (1935).
  • The Brittle Fracture Story (1962).


  • Charles, Jim and Gerry Smith. "Constance Tipper: her life and work", Materials World (1996).
  • Hayes, Evelyn. "Dr. Constance Tipper: testing her mettle in a materials world", Advanced Materials & Processes (1998).
  • Cathcart, Brian. "No dinner, but a nice box of chocs", New Statesman (2004). Retrieved on 13 Jul 2014.
  • Hetzel, Phyllis. Obituary, The Independent (1995). Retrieved on 27 May 2007.

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