50th anniversary tributes paid in memory of pioneering scientist

Tributes have been paid to a Nobel Prize-winning scientist and former Principal of the University of Edinburgh, to mark the 50th anniversary of his death.

A wreath has been laid at the grave of Professor Sir Edward Appleton, who is best known for his pioneering work in radio waves, and on the development of radar. Professor Appleton, born in 1892, was Principal of the University of Edinburgh from 1949 until his death in 1965.

Before taking up his post at Edinburgh, he enjoyed a successful career at the University of Cambridge and King’s College London. He is best known for demonstrating the existence of the upper atmosphere – the ionosphere – and researching its effects on radio waves.

During the First World War Professor Appleton served in the army and saw active service. In the Second World War, he was appointed chief civilian scientist, as Secretary of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. His work on the ionosphere contributed directly to the war effort in the fields of communications, intelligence and radar development.

Professor Appleton is recognised as playing a pivotal role in establishing the UK as a leader in ionosphere research, in so aiding the development of a radar early-warning system. He was knighted in 1941 and won many awards, including the 1947 Nobel Prize in Physics.

He was drawn to Edinburgh by the University’s status and the appeal of the city. As Principal, he was very involved in administration, including the development of George Square. He founded the Ionospheric Research Group in what was then the Department of Natural Philosophy, and worked enthusiastically until his death aged 72.

The University’s main building in George Square is named the Appleton Tower in his honour, as is the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory research centre in Oxfordshire. He is buried in Morningside Cemetery, Edinburgh.

“Sir Edward Appleton was a pioneering scientist who left an enduring legacy for Edinburgh and beyond. He was a committed, long-serving Principal at the University and it is fitting that we remember his anniversary and the value of his work.” Professor Arthur Trew, Head of the School of Physics & Astronomy, who laid the memorial wreath.