Kathleen Lonsdale

( 1903 - 1971 )

Crystallographer and pacifist

Dame Kathleen Lonsdale was a crystallographer and pacifist who studied physics at Bedford College, London.

Read more in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Kathleen Lonsdale

Kathleen Lonsdale, by Walter Stoneman, half-plate glass negative, April 1945, © National Portrait Gallery, London, CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0

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. 

Affiliated with

Bedford College, London
University College London

Subjects studied

  • Physics