William Hume-Rothery

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William Hume-Rothery
Born 15 May 1899
Worcester Park, Surrey
Died 27 September 1968 (1968-09-28) (aged 69)
Nationality British
Known for Hume-Rothery rules
Awards Fellow of the Royal Society[1]
Scientific career
Institutions University of Oxford

William Hume-Rothery OBE FRS[1] (15 May 1899 – 27 September 1968) was an English metallurgist and materials scientist who studied the constitution of alloys.[2][3][4]

Early life and education[edit]

Hume-Rothery was born the son of lawyer Joseph Hume-Rothery in Worcester Park, Surrey. His grandfather, William Rothery, was a clergyman. His grandmother, Mary Hume, an author, was the daughter of Joseph Hume, a Scottish doctor and Radical Member of parliament. William spent his youth in Cheltenham and was educated at Cheltenham College. In 1917 he was made totally deaf by a virus infection. Nevertheless, he entered Magdalen College, Oxford, and obtained a first class Honours degree in chemistry. He also attended the Royal School of Mines and was awarded a PhD.[1]


During World War II, he supervised numerous government contracts for work on aluminium and magnesium alloys.[citation needed]

After the war he returned to Oxford "to carry on research in intermetallic compounds and problems on the borderland of metallography and chemistry" and remained there for the rest of his working life. In 1938 he was appointed lecturer in metallurgical chemistry. In his research, he concluded that the microstructure of an alloy depends on the sizes of the component atoms, as well as the valency electron concentration, and electrochemical differences. This led to the definition of the Hume-Rothery rules.[citation needed]

In the 1950s he founded the Department of Metallurgy (which is now the Department of Materials) at the University of Oxford, and was a fellow of St Edmund Hall, Oxford.[citation needed]

He was a member of the Oxford Philatelic Society.[citation needed]

William Hume-Rothery Award[edit]

The William Hume-Rothery Award has since 1974 been awarded annually by The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society.

Honours and awards[edit]

Personal life and retirement[edit]

He married Elizabeth Fea in 1931; they had a daughter Jennifer in 1934. He retired in 1966 and died in 1968.


  1. ^ a b c d Raynor, G. V. (1969). "William Hume-Rothery 1899-1968". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 15: 109–126. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1969.0006. 
  2. ^ Hume-Rothery Bio, The Golden Years, Jack Christian, Department of Materials at Oxford University
  3. ^ Golden Years at Oxford
  4. ^ The Structure of Metals and Alloys (first published in 1936)
  5. ^ "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 21 November 2010.