Kathleen Lonsdale

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Kathleen Lonsdale
Kathleen Yardley Lonsdale (1903-1971).jpg
Lonsdale in 1968
Born Kathleen Yardley
(1903-01-28)28 January 1903
Newbridge, County Kildare, Ireland
Died 1 April 1971(1971-04-01) (aged 68)
London, England
Fields Crystallographer
Institutions University College London
Royal Institution
University of Leeds
Alma mater Bedford College for Women
University College London
Doctoral advisor William Henry Bragg
Known for X-ray crystallography[1][2][3]
Notable awards Davy Medal (1957)
Fellow of the Royal Society[4]

Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, DBE FRS (née Yardley; 28 January 1903 – 1 April 1971) was a British crystallographer who proved, in 1929, that the benzene ring is flat by using X-ray diffraction methods to elucidate the structure of hexamethylbenzene.[1] She was the first to use Fourier spectral methods while solving the structure of hexachlorobenzene in 1931. During her career she attained several firsts for female scientists, including being one of the first two women elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1945[4] (along with Marjory Stephenson), first woman tenured professor at University College London, first woman president of the International Union of Crystallography, and first woman president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.[5][6][7][8][9][10][11]

Early life and education[edit]

She was born Kathleen Yardley at Newbridge, County Kildare, Ireland, the tenth child of Harry Yardley, the town postmaster, and Jessie Cameron. Her family moved to Seven Kings, Essex, England, when she was five years old.[5] She studied at Woodford County High School for Girls, then transferred to Ilford County High School for Boys to study mathematics and science, because the girls' school did not offer these subjects. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Bedford College for Women in 1922, graduating in physics with an MSc from University College London in 1924.[12]

Career and research[edit]

In 1924 she joined the crystallography research team headed by William Henry Bragg at the Royal Institution. After her marriage, Lonsdale worked at the University of Leeds in the late 1920s. During the early 1930s, she cared for her small children nearly full-time.[13]

In 1934 Lonsdale returned to work with Bragg at the Royal Institution as a researcher. She was awarded a DSc from University College London in 1936 while at the Royal Institution. In addition to discovering the structure of benzene and hexachlorobenzene, Lonsdale worked on the synthesis of diamonds. She was a pioneer in the use of X-rays to study crystals. Lonsdale one of the first two women elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1945[4] (the other was the biochemist Marjory Stephenson).

In 1949 Lonsdale was appointed professor of chemistry and head of the Department of Crystallography at University College, London. Among her students was Karimat El-Sayed who became a Professor of Crystallography in Egypt. On a more personal level El-Sayed credits Lonsdale with demonstrating to her how a career and a family could be balanced.[14] She was the first tenured woman professor at that college, a position she held until 1968 when she was named Professor Emeritus.

Selected publications[edit]

  • Simplified Structure Factor and Electron Density Formulae for the 230 Space Groups of Mathematical Crystallography, G. Bell & Sons, London, 1936.
  • "Divergent Beam X-ray Photography of Crystals," Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 240A: 219 (1947).
  • Crystals and X-Rays, G. Bell & Sons, London, 1948.
  • Removing the Causes of War, 1953.
  • Is peace possible? (1957)
  • Forth in Thy Name: The Life and Work of Godfrey Mowatt (1959)[15]

Legacy and honours[edit]

Personal life[edit]

After beginning her research career, in 1927 Yardley married Thomas Jackson Lonsdale. They had three children – Jane, Nancy, and Stephen. Stephen became a medical doctor and worked for several years in Nyasaland (now Malawi).[citation needed]


Though she had been brought up in the Baptist denomination as a child, Kathleen Lonsdale became a Quaker in 1935, simultaneously with her husband. Already committed pacifists, both were attracted to Quakerism for this reason.[21] She was a Sponsor of the Peace Pledge Union.

She served a month in Holloway prison during the Second World War because she refused to register for civil defense duties, or pay a fine for refusing to register. In 1953 at the annual meeting of the British Quakers, she delivered the keynote Swarthmore Lecture, under the title Removing the Causes of War. A self-identified Christian pacifist,[22] she wrote about peaceful dialogue and was appointed the first secretary of Churches' Council of Healing by the Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple.[23]


Lonsdale died on 1 April 1971, aged 68, from an anaplastic cancer of unknown origin.


  1. ^ a b Lonsdale, K. (1929). "The Structure of the Benzene Ring in C6 (CH3)6". Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 123 (792): 494-515. Bibcode:1929RSPSA.123..494L. doi:10.1098/rspa.1929.0081. 
  2. ^ Lonsdale, K. (1931). "An X-Ray Analysis of the Structure of Hexachlorobenzene, Using the Fourier Method". Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 133 (822): 536. Bibcode:1931RSPSA.133..536L. doi:10.1098/rspa.1931.0166. 
  3. ^ Lonsdale, K. (1944). "Diamonds, Natural and Artificial". Nature. 153 (3892): 669. doi:10.1038/153669a0. 
  4. ^ a b c Hodgkin, D.M.C. (1975). "Kathleen Lonsdale (28 January 1903 - 1 April 1971)". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 21: 447–26. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1975.0014. 
  5. ^ a b c Hudson, G. (2004). "Lonsdale, Dame Kathleen (1903–1971)". The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/31376. 
  6. ^ Staff (2004). "Kathleen Lonsdale profile". Encyclopedia of World Biography. Retrieved 20 October 2012.  Or see alternative source.
  7. ^ Staff (January 2003). "Chemistry World: Woman of substance". Royal Society of Chemistry. Retrieved 20 October 2012. 
  8. ^ Staff. "Kathleen Yardley Lonsdale 1903-1971". CWP at University of California. Retrieved 20 October 2012. 
  9. ^ Staff. "Papers and correspondence of Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, 1903-1971". ArchivesHub.ac.uk. Retrieved 20 October 2012.  An overview of the scope and content of the collection of Lonsdale's papers that are kept at University College London.
  10. ^ Reville, William (2004). "Kathleen Lonsdale - Famous Irish Scientist". University College Cork.  This article first appeared in The Irish Times, 13 December 2001.
  11. ^ "Archival material relating to Kathleen Lonsdale". UK National Archives. 
  12. ^ Authier, André (2013-08-01). Early Days of X-ray Crystallography. OUP Oxford. ISBN 9780191635014. 
  13. ^ Baldwin, Melinda (2009-03-20). "'Where are your intelligent mothers to come from?': marriage and family in the scientific career of Dame Kathleen Lonsdale FRS (1903–71)". Notes and Records. 63 (1): 81–94. doi:10.1098/rsnr.2008.0026. ISSN 0035-9149. PMID 19579358. 
  14. ^ "A Woman of Substance", GulfNews.com, 16 March 2003; retrieved 17 March 2014
  15. ^ Lonsdale, Dame Kathleen (1959). Forth in Thy Name: The Life and Work of Godfrey Mowatt. Wykeham Press. Retrieved 24 December 2015. 
  16. ^ a b "Most influential British women in science". royalsociety.org. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  17. ^ "Dictionary of Irish Biography - Cambridge University Press". dib.cambridge.org. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  18. ^ "Honorary Graduates 1966 to 1988 | University of Bath". Bath.ac.uk. Retrieved 31 October 2012. 
  19. ^ Frondel, C.; U.B. Marvin (1967). "Lonsdaleite, a new hexagonal polymorph of diamond". Nature. 214 (5088): 587–589. Bibcode:1967Natur.214..587F. doi:10.1038/214587a0. 
  20. ^ Frondel, C.; U.B. Marvin (1967). "Lonsdaleite, a hexagonal polymorph of diamond". American Mineralogist. 52. 
  21. ^ "Quakers in the World - Kathleen Lonsdale". www.quakersintheworld.org. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  22. ^ Lonsdale, Kathleen Yardley. 1957. Is peace possible?. Penguin Books. p. 95
  23. ^ Harpur, Tom. 2013. The Uncommon Touch. McClelland & Stewart. p. 76