Hillcroft LRC

Posts Tagged ‘physics

Welcome to the Introduction to Science students who join us today for 5 weeks.

We will meet with your group this week to show you the many resources held by the Learning Resources Centre (LRC), how to use the library catalogue and give you membership cards.

Next week, we will demonstrate how you can benefit from the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) where you can access a number of eresources and ebooks to help with your studies.

If you would like to recommend useful apps or websites we are always happy to hear from you and if you require help accessing extra materials for chemistry, physics or biology, pop into the LRC and talk to one of the team.

Body model


Kathleen Lonsdale

Do you love science? Do you want to follow in the steps of an inspirational figure? What about Dame Kathleen Lonsdale?

Kathleen Yardley was born on 28 January 1903. She came to Britain with her Irish family when she was 5 years old. She excelled in mathematics, physics and chemistry but as these were not taught at her girl’s school, she had to attend the local boy’s school.

She continued to do well and attended Bedford College for Women (part of the University of London) where she graduated in 1922 with the highest marks in physics for 10 years. This success brought her to the attention of Sir William Bragg at University College London (UCL) who was at the forefront of X-ray diffraction. She subsequently gained a Masters degree from UCL in 1924 and continued working with Bragg when he moved to the Royal Society. He provided her with considerable support and encouragement.

In 1927, Kathleen married another researcher, Thomas Lonsdale and they moved to Leeds when he had an employment opportunity there. She joined the physics department of Leeds University and built her own experimental equipment enabling her to analyse hexamethylbenzene using x-ray crystallography. This was her first major discovery. Between 1928 and 1934 she had three children but continued to work. She gained a Science Doctorate in 1936. She published at least 200 research papers during her lifetime. She was the first female professor of Chemistry at UCL (1949 – 1968).

She was a religious woman practising as a Quaker and as Europe headed towards war in the 1930s, she considered this an evil activity. When war was declared in 1939, she was informed of her civil defence duties as her young children exempted her from war work. She refused this work, or pay the necessary fine and was sent to Holloway prison for one month. When she left prison, she began to support prison reform groups.

She took other stands against the war – as a scientist joining the Atomic Scientist Association and as a woman joining the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. In 1945/6 she was one of two women allowed to join The Royal Society and ten years later she was created Dame of the British Empire. She died at the age of 68 on 1 April 1971.


Text materials on Kathleen and X-ray crystallography in our LRC:

Cambridge Dictionary of Scientists 2nd edn. by Millar

Oxford Dictionary of Chemistry 6th edn. by Daintith

skullsinthestars (2015) Kathleen Lonsdale: Master of crystallography. Available at: http://skullsinthestars.com/2015/04/06/kathleen-lonsdale-master-of-crystallography/ (Accessed: 29 March 2016).


Astrodeep by Rich Murray is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I read this article today in The Independent newspaper (available in the LRC) on women and science. According to research, women overestimate the need to be naturally brilliant to succeed in science and engineering. This conclusion follows from research carried out into why so few women do engineering, technology and science degrees and even fewer progress further into such fields. It seems women feel less confident in their instant intellectual abilities.

This is compounded by images in the media portraying geniuses like Sherlock Holmes who when faced with a problem immediately solve it and don’t need to work long and hard at it. I watched the film ‘Theory of Everything’ recently and Stephen Hawking is shown in the lab writing complex maths formulae all across the blackboard. He is just naturally brilliant at physics. But hard work is important too.

Hopefully we can find ways to encourage women and men to challenge themselves with subjects that seem out of reach. There are lots of ways to find out more about subjects before deciding to go to university. For example, University College London holds weekly free lectures in science for everyone to attend. The next one is called ‘Auroras Abound – Comparing the Northern Lights of Earth, Jupiter and Saturn’ on Friday, 23rd January. Does this kind of lecture interest you?