About Kathleen Lonsdale: Irish crystallographer (1903 - 1971) | Biography, Bibliography, Facts, Information, Career, Wiki, Life
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Kathleen Lonsdale
Irish crystallographer

Kathleen Lonsdale

Kathleen Lonsdale
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Irish crystallographer
A.K.A. Kathleen Yardley
Was Chemist Crystallographer Engineer Activist Peace activist Scientist
From United Kingdom
Field Activism Engineering Science
Gender female
Birth 28 January 1903, Newbridge, Ireland
Death 1 April 1971, London, UK (aged 68 years)
Star sign Aquarius
The details (from wikipedia)


Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, DBE, FRS (née Yardley; 28 January 1903 – 1 April 1971) was an Irish pacifist, prison reformer and crystallographer. She proved, in 1929, that the benzene ring is flat by using X-ray diffraction methods to elucidate the structure of hexamethylbenzene. 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 (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.

Early life and education

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. 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.

Career and research

In 1924 she joined the crystallography research team headed by William Henry Bragg at the Royal Institution. From 1929 to 1934, she started a family and largely stayed at home while continuing her work calculating structure factors.

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 was one of the first two women elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1945 (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. She was the first tenured woman professor at that college, a position she held until 1968 when she was named Professor Emeritus.

Selected publications

  • 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.
  • Quakers Visit Russia, 1952.
  • Removing the Causes of War, 1953.
  • Is peace possible? (1957)
  • Forth in Thy Name: The Life and Work of Godfrey Mowatt (1959)

Legacy and honours

  • She was elected an Honorary Member of the Women's Engineering Society in 1946 in recognition of her "brilliant and important work".
  • 1956, she was made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
  • 1966, she was elected as the first woman president of the International Union of Crystallography.
  • 1967, active in encouraging young people to study science, she was elected as the first woman president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
  • There are buildings named in her honour at University College London, at the University of Limerick, and at Dublin City University.
  • 1969, she was awarded an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Science) by the University of Bath.
  • Lonsdaleite, an allotrope of carbon, was named in her honour; it is a rare harder form of diamond found in meteorites.

Personal life

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).


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. 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 defence duties, or to pay a fine for refusing to register. During this time she experienced a range of issues which would eventually result in Lonsdale becoming a prison reform activist and she joined the Howard League for Penal Reform.

"What I was not prepared for was the general insanity of an administrative system in which lip service is paid to the idea of segregation and the ideal of reform, when in practice the opportunities for contamination and infection are innumerable, and those responsible for re-education practically nil"

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, she wrote about peaceful dialogue and was appointed the first secretary of Churches' Council of Healing by the Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple.


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

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 10 Feb 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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Reference sources
https://web.archive.org/web/20161005220652/http://cwp.library.ucla.edu/Phase2/Lonsdale,[email protected]
http://cwp.library.ucla.edu/Phase2/Lonsdale,[email protected]
Sections Kathleen Lonsdale

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