Irvine Masson

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Irvine Masson
Born James Irvine Orme Masson
(1887-09-03)3 September 1887
Died 22 October 1962(1962-10-22) (aged 75)
Institutions University of Sheffield
Notable awards Fellow of the Royal Society[1]

Sir James Irvine Orme Masson MBE, FRS[1] (3 September 1887 – 22 October 1962), generally known as Irvine Masson, was an Australian chemist and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield from 1938 to 1953.[2]

Education and early life[edit]

Irvine Masson was born in Toorak, Melbourne, the son of Sir David Orme Masson a professor of chemistry at Melbourne University. He went to Melbourne Grammar School then Melbourne University, achieving a BSc with first class honours in chemistry in 1908. He began medical studies, but reverted to chemistry and in 1910 took up a scholarship in the subject at University College London.


In 1912 Masson joined the academic staff and in 1913 married Flora Gulland (died 1960).[3] They had a son, David Irvine Masson, in 1915.[1]

During the First World War he did explosives research at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, a practical experience very different from his previous academic work, but which had a major influence on his future research.[1]

After further time at University College, in 1924 he was made professor of chemistry at the University of Durham, also taking on the role of head of the Department of Pure Science. During this time he was lucky to survive one of his experiments which destroyed much of the laboratory.[1] This administrative role led to his appointment as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield in 1938. However he combined this with running research on explosives during the Second World War.[2]

Awards and honours[edit]

In 1939 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society[1] for his chemical research. He was made MBE[4] and in 1950 knighted.[5] Following his retirement from the University of Sheffield in 1952 he and his wife moved to Edinburgh, where both died, she in 1960, he in 1962.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Haworth, R. D.; Lamberton, A. H. (1963). "James Irvine Orme Masson 1887-1962". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 9: 205. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1963.0011. 
  2. ^ a b c "Masson, Sir David Orme (1858–1937)". The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/38283. 
  3. ^ She was Irvine Masson's first cousin — the daughter of s:Author:George Lovell Gulland the Scottish haematologist George Lovell Gulland, who had married David Orme Masson's sister Helen.
  4. ^ Date unknown, but listed in the award of his knighthood
  5. ^ Supplement to the London Gazette, 8 June 1950, page 2776
Academic offices
Preceded by
Sir Arthur Pickard-Cambridge
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield
Succeeded by
John Macnaghten Whittaker