Dame Kathleen Lonsdale graduated in 1922, achieving the top place in Bedford College's Bachelor of Sciences list. Her achievement led to her being offered a research post at University College London.
In 1931 Lonsdale took a position at the Royal Institution, London. She remained there until after the war, when, in 1946, she returned to University College. She was initially a Reader in crystallography, before being appointed Professor of Chemistry and head of UCL's Department of cCystallography in 1949.
According to her fellow crystallographer Dorothy Hodgkin, herself a future Nobel laureate, Lonsdale “…appeared to own the whole of crystallography in her time.” In 1945 she became one of the first two women to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, and was appointed a dame for services to science in 1956.
A committed Quaker and pacifist, Lonsdale had refused to register for civil defence during World War Two, for which she was imprisoned. She also later played a prominent role in the anti-nuclear campaign.