Denys Wilkinson
Denys Haigh Wilkinson

(1922-09-05)September 5, 1922
DiedApril 22, 2016(2016-04-22) (aged 93)
Alma materJesus College, Cambridge
Scientific career
FieldsNuclear physics

Sir Denys Haigh Wilkinson FRS (5 September 1922 – 22 April 2016) was a British nuclear physicist.

He was born on 5 September 1922 in Leeds, Yorkshire and educated at Loughborough Grammar School and Jesus College, Cambridge, graduating in 1943.[1]

After wartime work on the British and Canadian Atomic Energy projects, he returned to Cambridge in 1946, where he was awarded a PhD in 1947 and held posts culminating as Reader in Nuclear Physics from 1956–1957.[1] From 1944 to 1959, he was a fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge.[1]

He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1956.[2]

In 1957 he went to the University of Oxford as Professor of Nuclear Physics, and won the Fernand Holweck Medal and Prize the same year.[1] In 1959 he became Professor of Experimental Physics at Oxford, and from 1962 to 1976 was head of the Department of Nuclear Physics.[1] While he held his professorship at Oxford, he was a Fellow (there called a Student) of Christ Church, Oxford.[1] He was knighted in 1974.[3] In 2001 the Nuclear Physics Laboratory at the University of Oxford, which he had helped to create, was renamed the Denys Wilkinson Building in his honour.[4]

Denys Wilkinson served as chairman for both the Physics III Committee[5] and the Electronic Experiments Committee at CERN.[6]

On leaving Oxford, he served as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex from 1976 to 1987.[1][7] After his retirement, he was appointed Emeritus Professor of Physics at Sussex in 1987.[1]

Denys Wilkinson's work in nuclear physics included investigation of the properties of nuclei with low numbers of nucleons.[2] He was amongst the first to experimentally test rules relating to isospin.[2] He also applied concepts from physics to the study of bird navigation.[2]

He is also notable for the invention of the Wilkinson analog-to-digital converter, to support his experimental work.[2]

He died on 22 April 2016 at the age of 93.[7]

His papers are held at the Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge.[1] He was an Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge from 1961, and an Honorary Student of Christ Church, Oxford from 1979.[1] He won the Hughes Medal of the Royal Society in 1965 and the Royal Medal in 1980.[2][8][9] In 1980 he received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Mathematics and Science at Uppsala University, Sweden.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "The Papers of Sir Denys Wilkinson". Janus. Cambridge University. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Denys Wilkinson". The Royal Society. The Royal Society. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  3. ^ "No. 46430". The London Gazette. 13 December 1974. p. 12745.
  4. ^ Oxford Physics – Denys Wilkinson Building Archived 27 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ 80th Meeting of Scientific Policy Committee : Minutes (Report). CERN. CERN/SPC/0361. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  6. ^ 82nd Meeting of Scientific Policy Committee : Draft minutes (Report). CERN. CERN/SPC/0366/Draft. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  7. ^ a b "University of Sussex's third Vice-Chancellor Sir Denys Wilkinson passes away on 22 April 2016". University of Sussex. University of Sussex. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  8. ^ "Award Winners [of Hughes Medal]". Royal Society. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  9. ^ "Award Winners [of Royal Medal]". Royal Society. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  10. ^

External links

  • Portrait (1990), by Keith Clements, held at the University of Sussex