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Helen D. Megaw

Additional Information

Some Important Contributions

Comparison of the structures of ordinary and `heavy' ice.

With J.D. Bernal, published an early, and now classic, study of hydrogen bonding in metal hydroxides.

First determination of the crystal structure of barium titanate, BaTiO3 - one of the most important ferroelectrics used widely in industry for its dielectric properties.

Discovered complexities in feldspar structures, and distinguished between unit cell and lattice disorders.

Impact on ferroelectricity theory through her research on titanates and perovskites.

"Helen's impact on ferroelectricity was profound, especially in the early days. She brought to the subject a visual aspect embodied in the crystal structures of ferroelectrics, thus showing how this important effect arose. Her book, Ferroelectricity in Crystals, the first book on the subject, was for a long time just about the only book on the subject and became almost a "bible" for those working in ferroelectricity." ---- Professor A. Michael Glazer, University of Oxford.

Some Important Publications

"Cell Dimensions of Ordinary and `Heavy' Ice," Nature 134: 900 (1934).

"The Function of Hydrogen in Intermolecular Forces," Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A151: 384 (1935), with J.D. Bernal.

"Crystal Structure of Barium Titanate," Nature 155: 484 (1945).

"Origin of Ferroelectricity in Barium Titanate and Other Perovskite-type Crystals," Acta Crystallographica 5: 739 (1952).

"Notation for Felspar Structures," Acta Crystallographica 9: 56 (1956).

"Order and Disorder. I. Theory of Stacking Faults and Diffraction Maxima," Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A259: 59 (1959).

"Order and Disorder. II. Theory of Diffraction Effects in the Intermediate Plagioclase Feldspars," Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A259: 184 (1959).

"Structures and Transitions in Perovskites," J. de Physique 33 (Proceedings of Conference at Dijon): C2-1 (1972).

"Studies of the Lattice Parameters and Domains in the Phase Transitions of NaNbO3," Acta Crystallographica A29: 489 (1973), with A.M. Glazer.

"The Architecture of Felspars," and "Tilts and Tetrahedra in Felspars," in MacKenzie & Zussman (eds.), Proceedings of the NATO Advanced Study Institute on Felspars. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1974.

"Geometrical and Structural Relations in the Rhombodedral Perovkites," Acta Crystallographica A31: 161 (1975).


Ferroelectricity in Crystals. Methuen, London 1957.

Crystallographic Book List. International Union of Crystallography Commission, Utrecht 1965 (and 2 supplements (1966) (1972)).

Crystal Structures: A Working Approach. W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia 1973.

Of historical interest:

"The Domain of Crystallography," in J. Lima de Faria (ed.), Historical Atlas of Crystallography. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht 1990. "This is a survey explaining the relationship of Crystallography to Physics and to Chemistry--not of great interest in itself, but perhaps useful to physicists looking back at historical developments." --- Helen D. Megaw


Honorary Doctor of Science, University of Cambridge 1967

Honorary Doctor of Science, Queen's University, Belfast, Northern Ireland 2000   Citation

Fellow, Mineralogical Society of America

Fellow, Institute of Physics

Roebling Medal, Mineralogical Society of America 1989 [Megaw was the first woman to receive this medal.]

The name Helen D. Megaw Island was given to an island in the Antartica, located at about 66.9° S, 67.7° W. This honor was bestowed when the Glaciological Society was naming features in that neighborhood after scientists who had done some original work on ice. [See Ice 9: 10-11, 16 (1962).]


1934-35 Post-doctoral research with Prof. H. Mark, University of Vienna
1935-36 Post-doctoral research with Prof. F. Simon, Clarendon Laboratory, Oxford University
1936-43 Assistant Mistress at (1) Bedford High School and (2) Bradford Girls' Grammar School
1943-45 Crystallographic scientist, Materials Research Laboratory, Philips Lamps Ltd., Mitcham
1945-46 Assistant Director of Research in Crystallography, Birkbeck College, London
1946-49 Assistant for Experimental Research in Crystallography, Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge
1946-72 Fellow, Lecturer, and Director of Studies in Physical Science, Girton College, Cambridge
1949-59 Assistant Director of Research in Crystallography, Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge
1959-72 Lecturer, Cambridge University
1968-present Life Fellow, Girton College, Cambridge

Councilor, Mineralogical Society of Great Britain and Ireland 1971-74.


Queen's University, Belfast 1925-26
B.S. Girton College, Cambridge 1930
Ph.D. (mineralogy and petrology) University of Cambridge 1934

Additional Information/Comments

"Helen was a formidable person, as well as being very nice and scrupulously honest as a scientist. She was talented in some rather interesting ways. She was the only person I have met who could imagine a crystal structure in her mind and turn it around, and then draw it out for you on a piece of paper from any direction you cared to choose!"

--- Professor Michael Glazer, Clarendon Laboratory, University of Oxford.

"Along with Kathleen Lonsdale and Dorothy Hodgkin , Helen Megaw is one of the grand old school of British women crystallographers who serve as role models for many of us - men and women alike."
--- Professor Robert Newnham, Pennsylvania State University [hm1990rn]

"Much has been said about the difficulties of women in science, but I would like to say explicitly that I at least was never or rarely aware of discrimination. Perhaps I was particularly lucky, in that everyone who advised me on my education and guided my career assumed that women should be given the same opportunities as men. First and foremost I am thankful to my parent for this, and then to those far-sighted women of earlier generations who founded Girton College as a college for women, within Cambridge University and an integral part of it."
---Helen Megaw, on accepting the Roebling Medal of the Mineralogical Society of America for 1989. [am1990hm]

British Crystallographic Association 'Crystallography News' December 2000 notice

Submitted by:

A. Michael Glazer/Martha Keyes

Edited by:

Helen Megaw & Professor A. Michael Glazer, University of Oxford

Field Editor: Professor A. Michael Glazer, University of Oxford

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