William Hume-Rothery

William Hume-Rothery
Born15 May 1899 (1899-05-15)
Died27 September 1968 (1968-09-28) (aged 69)
Oxford, UK
EducationUniversity of Oxford
Royal School of Mines
Known forHume-Rothery rules
AwardsFellow of the Royal Society
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Oxford
Doctoral advisorHarold Carpenter
Doctoral studentsGeoffrey Raynor

William Hume-Rothery OBE FRS (15 May 1899 – 27 September 1968) was an English metallurgist and materials scientist who studied the constitution of alloys.

Early life and education

Hume-Rothery was born the son of lawyer Joseph Hume-Rothery in Worcester Park, Surrey. His grandfather, William Rothery, was a clergyman. His campaigning grandmother, Mary Hume-Rothery, was the daughter of Joseph Hume, a Scottish doctor and Radical Member of parliament. William spent his youth in Cheltenham and was educated at Cheltenham College. In 1917 he was made totally deaf by a virus infection. Nevertheless, he entered Magdalen College, Oxford, and obtained a first class Honours degree in chemistry. He also attended the Royal School of Mines and was awarded a PhD.


During World War II, he supervised numerous government contracts for work on aluminium and magnesium alloys.[citation needed]

After the war he returned to Oxford "to carry on research in intermetallic compounds and problems on the borderland of metallography and chemistry" and remained there for the rest of his working life. In 1938 he was appointed lecturer in metallurgical chemistry. In his research, he concluded that the microstructure of an alloy depends on the sizes of the component atoms, as well as the valency electron concentration, and electrochemical differences. This led to the definition of the Hume-Rothery rules.[citation needed]

In the 1950s he founded the Department of Metallurgy (which is now the Department of Materials) at the University of Oxford, and was a fellow of St Edmund Hall, Oxford.[citation needed] He was also involved in founding the Journal of the Less-Common Metals, which developed out of an international symposium on metals and alloys above 1200 °C that he organised at Oxford University on 17–18 September 1958. The papers presented at the symposium "The study of metals and alloys above 1200°C" were published as Volume 1 of the Journal of the Less-Common Metals.

He was a member of the Oxford Philatelic Society.[citation needed]

Selected publications

  • Electrons, atoms, metals, and alloys (1948, 1955, 1963)
    • Polish edition: Elektrony, atomy, metale i stopy (translated by Romuald Romicki, 1955)
    • French edition: Électrons, atomes, métaux et alliages (translated by G. Hilly, 1959)
  • Elements of structural metallurgy (1961)
    • Russian edition: Введение в физическое металловедение (translated by V.M. Glazov and S.M. Gorin, 1965)

William Hume-Rothery Award

The William Hume-Rothery Award has since 1974 been awarded annually by The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society.[citation needed]

Honours and awards

Personal life and retirement

He married Elizabeth Fea in 1931; they had a daughter Jennifer in 1934. He retired in 1966 and died in 1968.[citation needed]

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