Alan Cottrell

Alan Cottrell
Born17 July 1919
Birmingham, Warwickshire (now West Midlands)
Died15 February 2012(2012-02-15) (aged 92)
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire
Alma materUniversity of Birmingham
Known forCottrell atmosphere
Lomer–Cottrell junction
Crack tip opening displacement
AwardsFellow of the Royal Society
Hughes Medal (1961)
Harvey Prize (1974)
Rumford Medal (1974)
Copley Medal (1996)
Scientific career
FieldsMetallurgist, Physicist
Solvay Conference on Physics in Brussels 1951. Left to right, sitting: Crussaro, N.P. Allen, Cauchois, Borelius, Bragg, Moller, Sietz, Hollomon, Frank; middle row: Rathenau,(nl) Koster, Rudberg,(sv), Flamache, Goche, Groven, Orowan, Burgers, Shockley, Guinier, C.S. Smith, Dehlinger, Laval, Henriot; top row: Gaspart, Lomer, Cottrell, Homes, Curien

Sir Alan Howard Cottrell, FRS (17 July 1919 – 15 February 2012) was an English metallurgist and physicist. He was also former Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government and vice-chancellor of Cambridge University 1977–1979.

Early life

Cottrell was educated at Moseley Grammar School and the University of Birmingham, where he gained a Bachelor of Science degree in 1939 and a PhD for research on welding in 1942.


Cottrell joined the staff as a lecturer at Birmingham, being made professor in 1949, and transforming the teaching of the department by emphasising modern concepts of solid state physics. In 1955 he moved to A.E.R.E. Harwell, to become Deputy Head of Metallurgy under Monty Finniston.

From 1958 to 1965 Cottrell was Goldsmiths' Professor of Metallurgy at Cambridge University, and a fellow of Christ's College. He later worked for the government in various capacities, ultimately as Chief Scientific Adviser from 1971 to 1974, before becoming Master of Jesus College, Cambridge, from 1973 to 1986, and Vice-Chancellor of the university in 1977–1979.


Cottrell died on 15 February 2012 after a brief illness.

Awards and honours

He was a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Selected books

  • Theoretical Structural Metallurgy (1948) (E Arnold; 2nd Revised edition (1 January 1955)) (ISBN 0713120436)
  • Dislocations and Plastic Flows in Crystals (1953) (ISBN 978-0198512066)
  • Superconductivity (1964) (Harwood Academic (Medical, Reference and Social Sc; n edition (December 1964)) (ISBN 0677000650)
  • An Introduction to Metallurgy (1967) (ISBN 978-0901716934)
  • Portrait of Nature : the world as seen by modern science (1975) (ISBN 978-0684143552)
  • How Safe is Nuclear Energy? (1982) (Heinemann Educational Publishers (29 June 1981)) (ISBN 0435541757)
  • Concepts in the Electron Theory of Alloys (1998) (ISBN 978-1861250759)

See also

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