Born: 28 Nov 1914, Springhill, Nova Scotia
Died: 1 July 1995, Cambridge, England
Field: X-ray Crystallographer
Wilson was educated at King’s Collegiate School in Windsor, Nova Scotia (1922/1930) and at Dalhousie University, Halifax (1930/36), where he graduated in 1934. It was at Dalhousie that he started his academic career and in 1936 he obtained an MSc, under the direction of Howard Bronson, for his work on the heat capacity of Ag, Ni, Zn, Cd and Pb as a function of temperature He then joined Hans Mueller’s group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. where he received his first PhD, in 1938, for a study of the anomalous thermal behaviour of the ferroelectric Rochelle salt in the temperature range -30 to +30°C. While at MIT he was awarded an 1851 Exhibition Scholarship which enabled him to go to St John’s College and the Cavendish Laboratory in 1938, the year in which Sir Lawrence Bragg succeeded Lord Rutherford as the Cavendish Professor of Experimental Physics at Cambridge, During the remaining two years of his Scholarship, Wilson made accurate measurements of the thermal expansion of Al and Pb, which led to the award of his second PhD in 1942.
It has been said that Wilson ranked amongst the world’s leading X-ray crystallographers for almost half a century. In recognition of his substantial contribution to the field of powder diffraction, and also to single-crystal diffraction, Wilson was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1963. Dalhousie University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1991.