Herbert Wakefield Banks Skinner

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Herbert Wakefield Banks Skinner (7 October 1900 – 20 January 1960) was a British physicist.

He was born in Ealing, London the only son of George Herbert, a director of the shoemaking firm of Lilley & Skinner, and Mabel Elisabeth Skinner.[1] He was educated at Durston House School in Ealing and Rugby School. In 1919 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, gaining his B.Sc in 1922. He then did research there at the Cavendish Laboratory for five years, and was awarded a Ph.D.[2] He then moved to the Wills Physical Laboratory in Bristol to continue his research (1927–1939).

During World War II he was engaged on the development of radar at the Telecommunications Research Establishment and on the atomic energy project at Berkeley University, California. After World War II he became a director of the General Physics Division at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Harwell. The Russian spy, Klaus Fuchs, was a close friend and stayed with him in his house prior to Fuchs' arrest in 1950. Skinner was appointed Lyon-Jones Professor of Physics at Liverpool University (1949–1960)

In March 1942 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.[3] His candidature citation read:

Wills Research Fellow and Lecturer in Spectroscopy. Associated with Ellis in early work on beta-ray spectra (1924) and with Kapitza on Zeeman effect (1925). Carried out experiments on excitation processes in gases (1926-7) and evaluated the excitation function for helium (1932). Distinguished for his work on the excitation potentials of metals and the emission and absorption of soft X-rays by solids (1932 onwards). Responsible for marked advances in the technique of soft X-ray investigations which have enabled him to show for the first time the details of the fine-structure of the emission bands and the absorption edges. His interpretation of his results has provided the only direct evidence for the existence of 'Brillouin zones' in metals and much detailed information about their properties. His work is characterized by experimental skill of high order and an acute understanding of theory.

He died in Geneva on a visit to the European Organization for Nuclear Research. He had married Erna Abrahamsohn, an Austrian, in Bristol in 1931.


  1. ^ H. Jones: Herbert Wakefield Banks Skinner. 1900-1960. Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, Vol.6, (Nov. 1960), pp.259-268, publisher: The Royal Society
  2. ^ "Herbert Wakefield Banks Skinner": 258–268. JSTOR 769345. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ "Library and Archive Catalogue". The Royal Society. Retrieved 18 October 2010.