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John Mason (meteorologist)

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Sir Basil John Mason CB FRS[2] (18 August 1923 – 6 January 2015) was an expert on cloud physics[3] and former Director-General of the Meteorological Office from 1965 to 1983 and Chancellor of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) from 1994 to 1996.[1][4]

John Mason
Basil John Mason

18 August 1923[1]
Died6 January 2015(2015-01-06) (aged 91)
Alma materUniversity College, Nottingham
Scientific career


Education and early lifeEdit

Mason was born in Docking, Norfolk.[5] and educated at Fakenham Grammar School and University College, Nottingham.[1]

He served in the Radar branch of the RAF during the Second World War as a Flight-lieutenant. After being awarded a first class degree in physics by the University of London he was in 1948 appointed lecturer in the postgraduate Department of Meteorology at Imperial College, London.[6]


He worked at Imperial College from 1948 to 1965, being appointed Professor of Cloud Physics in 1961. His work concerned the physical processes involved in the formation of clouds and the release of rain, snow or hail and led to the Mason Equation, which defines the growth or evaporation of small water droplets. He was elected Fellow at the College in 1974.

In the 1960s, he helped to modernise the World Meteorological Organization

From 1965 to 1983 he was Director of the UK Meteorological Office at Bracknell where he developed theories to explain how electrical charges are generated in thunderclouds which can become strong enough to break through air insulation and trigger lightning.[6]

He died in 2015.[7] He had married Doreen Jones, with whom he had two sons.

Awards and honoursEdit

In 1965 he was awarded the Chree Medal[8] and in 1974 the Glazebrook Medal[9] from the Institute of Physics and was President of the Institute from 1976 to 1978.

From 1968 to 1970 he was President of the Royal Meteorological Society[10] of which he was an honorary member, and from whom he received the Symons Gold Medal in 1975.[11] In 1974 he was invited to deliver the MacMillan Memorial Lecture to the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland, choosing the subject "Recent Developments in Weather Forecasting".[12]

Mason was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1965[2] and in 1972 received their Rumford Medal.[13] He was Treasurer of the Society from 1976 to 1986,[14] gave their 1990 Rutherford Memorial Lecture in Canada[15] and in 1991 received their Royal Medal.[16]

In 1991 Mason also received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University[17]

In 1973, he was made a companion of the Order of the Bath and in 1979 was knighted for his services to meteorology. He was Chancellor of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology from 1965 to 1996, when he was succeeded by Sir Roland Smith. In 1998 he received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Reading.

The National Portrait Gallery contains a portrait of Mason.[18] In 2004, Mason opened the Mason Centre for Environmental Flows at the University of Manchester. In 2006, an endowment from Mason enabled the Royal Meteorological Society to establish the Mason Gold Medal.[19] Mason was also Chairman of the British Physics Olympiad Committee.


  • The Physics of Clouds (1957)
  • Clouds, Rain and Rainmaking (1962)
  • The Surface Waters Acidification Programme (editor, 1990)
  • Acid Rain: Its Causes and its Effects on Inland Waters (1992)
  • Highlights in Environmental Research – Professorial Inaugural Lectures at Imperial College (editor, 2000).
  • B.J. Mason (1957) The Physics of Clouds Oxford University Press


  1. ^ a b c "MASON, Sir (Basil) John". Who's Who. 2015 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription or UK public library membership required) (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c Browning, Keith A. (2015). "Sir (Basil) John Mason CB. 18 August 1923 – 6 January 2015". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society: rsbm20150028. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2015.0028. ISSN 0080-4606.
  3. ^ Gay, Hannah (2007). The history of Imperial College London, 1907–2007: higher education and research in science, technology and medicine. World Scientific. pp. 376–. ISBN 978-1-86094-709-4. Retrieved 10 June 2011.
  4. ^ Reflections by Sir John Mason CB DSc FRS on his time as Director-General of the Meteorological Office, Royal Meteorological Society
  5. ^ Twentieth-century culture: a biographical companion
  6. ^ a b "Sir John Mason, meteorologist – obituary". The Telegraph. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  7. ^ "Death of Sir John Mason". Royal Meteorological Society. 7 January 2015. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  8. ^ "Appleton Medal Recipients (Formerly known as the Chree Medal)".
  9. ^ "Sir John Mason: Physicist who modernised the Meteorological Office and made it an internationally-admired institution". The Independent. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  10. ^ "The Royal Meteorological Society Presidents".
  11. ^ Walker, Malcolm. History of the Meteorological Office. p. 409.
  12. ^ "Hugh Miller Macmillan". Macmillan Memorial Lectures. Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland. Archived from the original on 4 October 2018. Retrieved 29 January 2019. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  13. ^ "Winners of the Royal Society 'Rumford Medal'".
  14. ^ "Officers of the Royal Society".
  15. ^ "Rutherford Memorial Lectures of the Royal Society".
  16. ^ "Winners of the Royal Society 'Royal Medal'".
  17. ^ "Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh: Honorary Graduates". Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  18. ^ "The Royal Meteorological Society 'Mason Gold Medal' recipients".