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Durham pioneers

Starting from 1834

Temple Chevallier

Professor of Mathematics 1834 - 1871

Accepted an appointment to teach divinity at the newly established University of Durham in 1834 following his ordination as a clergyman in the Church of England. In addition to holding the post of Reader in Hebrew he also, in 1835, became Durham University's first professor of Mathematics, adding to this title in 1841 the subject of Astronomy.

During his 30 years as Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy, he helped to raise the funds necessary to construct and equip Durham University Observatory with state-of-the-art astronomical instruments. His astronomical research included studies of Jupiter's moons and of sunspots.

To mark Temple Chevallier's contributions to astronomy there is a lunar crater named in his honour.

Gordon Manley

Professor of Geography 1902 - 1980

Gordon Manley was Head of the Department of Geography from 1928 - 1939 and Curator of the Durham University Observatory.

Here he established the Durham temperature series which was the foundation for his monthly temperature record series dating from 1659 and the longest series of temperature records in existence which is maintained to this day. His work laid the foundation of modern meteorology and our understanding of climate change. His 1952 book Climate and the British Scene, was one of the great contributions to British climatology. He was elected President of the Royal Meteorological Society in 1946 - 47.

Arthur Holmes

Professor of Geology 1925 - 1943

Arthur Holmes was, arguably, the most eminent Geologist of the 20th Century. A pioneer of the new discipline of Geochronology, he published the world renowned book 'The Age of the Earth' in 1913, in which he estimated the Earth's age to be 1.6 billion years. He also championed the theory of continental drift, even though he was in a small minority, and proposed the theory which we now know as plate tectonics. He has a crater on Mars named after him.

Wilhelm Levison

born in Düsseldorf in 1876 of a Jewish family, was one of the greatest historians of the early middle ages. Lecturer at Bonn in 1903 and professor in 1909, the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 forced him as a Jew to resign his chair, and in November 1938 he was debarred from the use of libraries. In early 1939, Durham University, which had in 1931 awarded him an honorary doctorate, offered him a fellowship. In April 1939 he and his wife Elsa moved to Durham where he continued his research until his death in 1947 and prepared for publication his most important work, England and the Continent in the 8th Century.

His books are now shared, as he wished, between the universities of Durham and Bonn.

George Rochester

Professor of Physics 1955 - 1973

discovered one of the fundamental building blocks of nature, originally called 'V-particles', in cosmic radiation together with Clifford Butler in 1947. Nowadays V-particles are recognised as the first observed particles containing a 'strange' quark. His work triggered a search all over the world, particularly on mountain-tops, for more examples of these new, unstable cosmic particles.

Subsequently, large accelerators were built to create such particles artificially under controlled conditions in energetic nuclear interactions, and sophisticated systems were designed to detect the particles. It is particularly fitting that the UK's Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology is located in Durham.

Rosemary Cramp

Professor in Archaeology 1955 - 1990

still plays a key role as Director of the British Academy and is editor of the 'Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Sculpture'.

A specialist in Early Medieval Art and Architecture, Old English Literature and Archaeology, she was also an early advocate of scientific applications. Awarded a CBE and an FBA for her outstanding contributions to early medieval archaeology, she successfully nurtured two generations of scholars and acted as a role model for female archaeologists, including becoming

Durham's first female professor. An enthusiastic supporter of archaeology research in the North East, she is currently championing the nomination of Jarrow and Monkwearmouth Monasteries for UNESCO World Heritage Status. In 2008 she was awarded the highest award of the Society of Antiquities - their Gold Medal.

From 1958

Charles Kingsley Barrett

Professor of New Testament 1958 - 1982

was the most substantial New Testament scholar of the 20th Century. His meticulous historical research shed new light on the first three generations of the Christian movement and inspired generations of fresh scholarly work on early Christian controversies.

His renown lies also in his careful attention to texts, resulting in the publication of paradigm-setting commentaries on the Gospel of John, Paul's letter to the Romans, I and II Corinthians, and the Act of the Apostles.

Alan Martin

Professor of Physics 1964 - 2003

has been at the forefront of particle theory research in the United Kingdom for the past forty years. Some of his papers are among the most cited papers in any of the physical sciences. Particularly noteworthy is his work in the area of strong interaction physics, and a characteristic feature of his research work is his ability to connect complicated theoretical ideas with what can be observed in an experiment.

He has established Durham as the world centre for determining the partonic structure of the proton, an understanding of which is essential for interpreting the measurements made at all high energy proton colliders. In 2007 he was awarded the Institute of Physics and German Physical Society's Max Born Medal and Prize for his pioneering theoretical work on the internal structure of the proton.

Tom Wilmore

Professor of Pure Mathematics 1965 - 1984

He was a leading international figure in the field of Differential Geometry, having made substantial contributions to the theories of harmonic spaces and minimal surfaces. He is most widely remembered for his famous conjecture that the so-called "Willmore Energy" of such an immersion must be at least 2pi².

There have been many attempts to prove this conjecture over the past 40 years, but it has still not been settled.

Sir Arnold Wolfendale

Professor of Physics 1965 - 1992

is one of the world's leading astronomers. He made many important contributions to the study of cosmic ray particles, charged particles that continuously bombard the Earth but whose origin remains controversial, including the role they play in determining the properties of gas clouds in the Milky Way. An outstanding public advocate for science, he served as Astronomer Royal from 1991 to 1995.

Jim Feast

Professor of Chemistry 1965 - 2003

works on many different types of material and collaborates with scientists from other disciplines in academic and industrial laboratories around the world. He was appointed the President of the Royal Society of Chemistry between 2006 and 2008 and is best known for his work on Electroactive Polymers. He was awarded the 2007 Royal Medal of the Royal Society, perhaps the most prestigious of all UK research awards.

Sir Gordon Robert Higginson

Professor of Engineering 1965 -1985

was Head of the Department of Engineering Science from 1967-1971 and 1979-1981.

Sir Gordon’s research was in elasto-hydrodynamic lubrication, and in 1966 he co-authored the now classical book of that title which, for the first time, allowed the lubrication of highly stressed contacts such as cams, gears and rolling element bearings to be understood. He introduced the study of Biomedical Engineering research to Durham.

Sir Gordon was asked by Margaret Thatcher’s administration to Chair a review of the A level system. The “Higginson report” advised on the use of emerging technologies to support education.

From 1972

Ray Hudson

Professor of Geography 1972 - Present

has made an outstanding contribution to theoretical and empirical analyses of regional and industrial change. Widely acknowledged as one of the leading thinkers of his generation, he has been at the forefront of the methodological shifts in economic geography from structuralism to the incorporation of institutionalism and human agency, and - more recently - environmental issues.

In 2005 he was awarded the Royal Geographical Society's prestigious Victoria Medal for research on regional and industrial change in the UK and wider Europe.

Michael Prestwich

Professor of Medieval History 1979 - 2008

is one of the foremost and best-known historians in the study of Medieval England. His publications include the authoritative biography of King Edward I of England, Edward I (1988), and a major contribution to Military History, Armies and Warfare in the Middle Ages (1996). His stature as a scholar is illustrated by the commission to write Plantagenet England 1225 - 1360 (2005) for the New Oxford History of England.

Michael O'Neill

Professor of English 1979 - Present

is the leading authority on Romantic Literature, especially the work of Percy Bysshe Shelley and British, Irish, and American 20th and 21st Century poets. He is best known for the exploration of poetry as an art, albeit an art open to anxiety and self-questioning. His subtle, sensitive, and close readings of many important poems bring them alive and make them more accessible. His own poetry received a Cholmondeley Award for Poets in 1990.

Paul Sillitoe

Professor of Anthropology 1984 - Present

is a distinguished anthropologist who was an undergraduate and graduate student in Durham before returning to his former department as a lecturer in the mid-1980s. He has exceptionally broad anthropological interests which, underpinned by his formidable expertise of the subject, make him uniquely qualified to investigate communities' horticultural and agricultural practices, their social ecology and subsistence economics. His work is not only remarkable for its breadth and depth - it also provides a unique bridge between Anthropology and the Agricultural Sciences.

James Stirling

Professor of Mathematics and Physics 1986 - 2008

is a leading figure in UK science having published more than 300 research papers, including some of the most frequently cited papers in the physical sciences. His particular research interest is particle physics phenomenology - the interface between theory and experiment - and he works closely with experimentalists at research laboratories in Europe and the United States. He co-founded Durham's Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology and was awarded a CBE in the 2006 New Years Honours list for services to science.

Judith Howard

Professor of Chemistry 1991 - Present

is one of the world's most distinguished Crystallographers, embracing the revolutionary ultralow temperature diffractometer, and developing fast data collection for investigations into organic metals and thin films, and sensitive materials for biosensors. Her research output has been truly prodigious and she was awarded a CBE for her contributions to science in 1996, followed by the Royal Society of Chemistry Prize for Structural Chemistry in 1999.

She was the first female Head of a Chemistry Department in the UK.