Marion Ross (physicist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Dr Marion Amelia Spence Ross FRSE (9 April 1903 – 3 January 1994) was a Scottish physicist noted for her work in X-ray crystallography and fluid dynamics.[1] She was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and was one of five daughters of William Baird Ross, organist, composer and founder of The Edinburgh Society of Organists (ESO).


After school at Edinburgh Ladies' College, Marion Ross studied Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Edinburgh University, receiving prestigious bursaries in Mathematics, and graduating with honours. Ross then studied at teacher training college in Cambridge for one year and taught mathematics in a secondary school in Woking, Surrey for two years [1] In 1928, she took up a post as Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Physics at the University of Edinburgh, and instigated a course in Acoustics for music students. Her work with Professor C. G.Barkla resulted in her being awarded a PhD in 1943.

For one year, she worked under the direction of William Lawrence Bragg at Manchester University, and together with Arnold Beevers, explored the structure of the crystal Beta Alumina.[2] They noted there were 'problem' sites in the areas occupied by mobile sodium ions. Subsequently the very presence of these ions was discovered to make this crystal an efficient superconductor. As a tribute to their discovery, the locations of these ions are now known as Beevers–Ross and anti-Beevers–Ross sites.[3]

During the Second World War, Ross worked with the Admiralty at Rosyth where she led a research group investigating underwater acoustics. She became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1951, two years after the first female Fellows were admitted. After the war she returned to the University of Edinburgh as a Lecturer, studying high-energy particle spectra. She was the first Director of Edinburgh University's Fluid Dynamics Unit. Some of her work was published in the journal Nature.[4]

Her interest in fluid flows led to Ross setting up a fluid dynamics Unit within the Department of Physics. Many students were attracted to this field of study, supervised by Ross.

Ross was elected to University Court for session 1967-68, one of the first non-Professorial members of staff to serve. Her contributions to the University were rewarded with a Readership, and her success was particularly notable given the male-dominated nature of the profession.[1] On her retirement, the annually awarded Marion A S Ross Prize was founded in her name. In 2014 a street on Edinburgh University's Kings Buildings campus was named in her honour.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Outside her professional life, Ross had a wide range of interests, including literature, art, music, and politics. She was particularly interested in the organ that her father had designed for the Holy Rude Church, Stirling, where he was the organist, and where Ross herself sang in the choir.

Ross died on 3 January 1994. Her obituary describes her as "an enthusiast and a person of high ideals and purpose. The type of person who looked for work that needed doing and got on and did it voluntarily. Her research in nuclear and X-ray physics, and in fluid dynamics, is internationally recognised and has inspired others to follow in her footsteps. She will be remembered with affection and gratitude by her students, her colleagues and by her family."[1]


  1. ^ a b c d "Marion Amelia Spence Ross [Obituary]" (PDF). Royal Society of Edinburgh website. Royal Society of Edinburgh. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  2. ^ Beevers, C. A.; Ross, M. A. S. (July 1937). "The crystal structure of "Beta Alumina" Na2O 11Al(2)O3". Zeitschrift für Kristallographie. 97 (1/2): 59–66. doi:10.1524/zkri.1937.97.1.59. 
  3. ^ "Cecil Arnold Beevers" (PDF). Crystallography News. Royal Society of Edinburgh. 2001. Retrieved 28 March 2014. 
  4. ^ Ross, M. A. S.; Zajac, B. (1948). "Range-energy and other relations for electrons in Kodak nuclear plates". Nature. 162 (4128): 923–923. doi:10.1038/162923a0. 
  5. ^ Holden, John-Paul (16 September 2014). "New streets honour Edinburgh thinkers". Edinburgh Evening News.