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William Cochran


1922 - 2003

Physicist. Born on a farm near Newton Mearns (East Renfrewshire), Cochran was educated at Boroughmuir High School in Edinburgh and the University in the city. He was part of a team in Cambridge which did much to lay the foundations of modern crystallography. Cochran undertook much pioneering work which underpinned the Nobel prizes won by others; he advised Francis Crick on X-ray crystallography which led to the discovery of the structure of DNA and assisted Bertram Brockhouse by developing a new model for crystal dynamics while on a sabbatical year in Canada.

Cochran was appointed to the Chair in Natural Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh in 1964 and established a research group in condensed matter physics which remains important internationally. He reorganised the old Department of Natural Philosophy at Edinburgh into a modern Department of Physics, becoming its head in 1975. He also served as Vice Principal of the University (1984-7).

Cochran was a Fellow of the Royal Societies of London and Edinburgh, winning the Hughes Medal from the former in 1978.


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