ICDD Awards - Distinguished Fellowship Award 1984

Arthur J.C. Wilson (1914 – 1995)

Dr. Wilson attended King’s Collegiate School in Windsor, Nova Scotia from 1922 – 1930; he obtained his Masters from Dalhousie University, Halifax in 1934. He received his PhD in 1938, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1937, he was awarded an 1851 Exhibition Scholarship which enabled him to study at St. John’s College, Cambridge. While there, he conducted research at the Cavendish Laboratory with Sir Lawrence Bragg, who was at the time Professor of Experimental Physics. Dr. Wilson received his second PhD from St. John’s in 1942.  

It was during his time in Cambridge that Dr. Wilson discovered his interest in X-ray crystallography, and began making significant contributions to the field. Dr. Wilson is known for his book X-ray Optics, which is an invaluable resource when conducting research in the field, even today. One of his papers, which was published in Nature in 1942, is frequently cited in the crystallography community. The method described in this paper later became known as the Wilson plot, which is still used for scaling intensities and estimating temperature factors.

In 1945, Dr. Wilson left Cambridge to lecture at the University College, Cardiff in the Department of Physics. He went on to become senior lecturer, Director of the Viriamu Jones Lab, Professor of Physics and eventually the Head of Department while there. Additionally, Dr. Wilson founded a school of organic crystal chemistry at Cardiff which was well-known for their work on alkaloids. While at Cardiff, Dr. Wilson and his team began submitting work to the Powder Diffraction File. Over the next 30 years, research from Cardiff continued to be submitted to the PDF.

In 1965, Dr. Wilson was named Professor of Crystallography at the University of Birmingham. While working at Birmingham, Dr. Wilson served as a Visiting Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1965, 1968 and 1971, and at the University of Tokyo in 1974.

Dr. Wilson, and his close friend from MIT, Dr. Bill Parrish, worked together in pioneering the modern powder diffractometer. After their initial success, Dr. Wilson received support from the Joint Committee for his efforts in developing a diffractometer. Dr. Wilson made significant theoretical contributions to diffractometry development; he used statistical concepts for a precise determination of the positions and breadths of diffraction line profiles.

During his career, Dr. Wilson was a member of the Joint Committee on Chemical Analysis by X-ray Diffraction as a representative of the Institute of Physics. He regularly attended the Spring and Autumn Meetings held in Philadelphia. Dr. Wilson was also involved in the formation of the British Crystallographic Association (BCA), which first met in 1982 at Durham University. Throughout his career, Dr. Wilson published over 300 papers, and held various editorial positions, such as Editor of Structure Reports, Editor of Acta Crystallographica for the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr), and Associate Editor of the Proceedings of the Royal Society. In 1984, ICDD awarded Dr. Wilson the title of Distinguished Fellow and in 1991, he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Dalhousie University.

Read more about the continually growing list of ICDD Distinguished Fellows.