Skyrme, Tony Hilton Royle, 1922-1987

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1922-05-12
Death 1987-06-25
English

Biographical notes:

Professor Tony Hilton Royle Skyrme, 1922-1987, was educated at Eton (a King's Scholar) and Trinity College Cambridge where he studied for the Mathematical Tripos. After his final Cambridge examinations in 1943 he was assigned to work with the Tube Alloys Directorate (the UK atomic bomb project) and joined Rudolf Ernst Peierls', (later Sir Rudolph Peierls) group at University of Birmingham which was working on theoretical questions posed by the bomb's design and construction. In March 1944 he was sent to the United States of America to work first in New York and then at Los Alamos on the atomic bomb project.

On his return to England in 1946 Skyrme was admitted as a research fellow at Trinity College Cambridge although he never actually lived there, choosing instead to work at the new Department of Mathematical Physics at University of Birmingham where he held a university research fellowship 1946-1948. In August 1948 he married Dorothy Millest, a lecturer in nuclear physics at Birmingham, and then spent two years in the USA as a Research Associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and in the following year as a member of the the Institute of Advanced Physics at Princeton.

In 1950 Skyrme returned to England to take up the post of Senior Principal Scientific Officer in the Theoretical Physics Division of the Atomic Energy Research Establishment (AERE) Harwell, where he was head of the Nuclear Physics Group. It was in his later years at AERE Harwell - he resigned in 1961 - that he did his most important scientific research, especially the four papers on non-linear meson theories published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society 1958, 1959 and 1961 which, together with three related papers, propounded "a nuclear theory based entirely on meson fields, without particulate nucleons".

Skyrme spent 1958-1959 on leave from AERE Harwell. He was visiting Professor for a term at the University of Pennsylvania before travelling back to the United Kingdom via California (USA), Australia, Malaya and India. He resigned from AERE Harwell in September 1961 to take up a senior Lectureship in the Mathematics Department of the University of Kuala Lumpur. He remained there until 1964 when he returned to England to take up the Chair in Mathematical Physics at Birmingham in succession to Peierls. In 1982 his department was obliged to amalgamate with the Mathematics Department and his Chair was redesignated a Chair in Applied Mathematics.

Reference: Compiled by Peter Harper and Timothy E. Powell, Catalogue to the Papers and Correspondence of Tony Hilton Royle Skyrme (National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists, 1989).

For further information on the life and career of Skyrme see: R. H. Dalitz ' Professor Tony Hilton Royle Skyrme: 1922-1987. A Brief Biography', in Dalitz and R.B. Stinchcombe eds. A Breadth of Physics (1988).

R. H. Dalitz, 'An Outline of the Life and Work of Tony Hilton Royle Skyrme: 1922-1987', International Journal of Modern Physics A ( Volume 3, No. 12, 1988 ).

For further reading about the University of Birmingham see: Eric Ives, Diane Drummond, Leonard Schwarz The First Civic University: Birmingham 1880-1980 An Introductory History (The University of University of Birmingham Press. 2000).

From the guide to the University of Birmingham Staff Papers: Papers of Tony Hilton Royle Skyrme, (194-)-1987, (University of Birmingham Information Services, Special Collections Department)

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  • Nuclear physics Research

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