Open main menu

Professor Derek Ainslie Jackson, DFC, AFC, OBE, FRS,[1](23 June 1906 – 20 February 1982) was a spectroscopist and also a jockey.[2][3] Derek Jackson was one of the outstanding atomic physicists of his generation.

Derek Jackson
Born(1906-06-23)23 June 1906
Died(1982-02-20)20 February 1982 (aged 75)
Lausanne, Switzerland
ResidenceRignell Farm, Berkshire
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge
Known foratomic physics
AwardsFellow of the Royal Society[1]
Scientific career
InstitutionsClarendon Laboratory, Oxford
Doctoral advisorFrederick A. Lindemann


Son of a wealthy Welshman, Sir Charles Jackson, who was both a leading authority on antique silver and chairman of the News of the World, Jackson showed early promise in the field of spectroscopy under the guidance of Professor Lindemann, making the first quantitative determination of a nuclear magnetic spin using atomic spectroscopy to measure the hyperfine structure of caesium.

His scientific research at Oxford did not, however, interfere with his other great passion – steeplechase riding – which led him from the foxhunting field to his first ride in the Grand National of 1935. A keen huntsman he took up the sport again after the war, riding in two more Nationals after the war, the last time when he was 40 years old.

In World War II Jackson distinguished himself in the RAF, making an important scientific contribution to Britain's air defences and to the bomber offensive. He flew more than a thousand hours as a navigator, many of them in combat in night-fighters, with No. 604 (County of Middlesex) Squadron based at RAF Middle Wallop. He was decorated with the DFC, AFC and OBE. This war record stands in contrast to his stated desire at the war's inception to keep Britain out of fighting Germany, and his reported desire "that all Jews in England should be killed".[4]

For the rest of his life Professor Jackson, appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1947, lived as a tax exile in Ireland, France and Switzerland. He continued his spectroscopic work in France at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique, and was made a chevalier de la Légion d'honneur.

Jackson had what might be called a colourful personal life. A "rampant bisexual",[5][6] he was married six times, and also lived for three years with the half-sister of one of his wives. The others included a daughter of Augustus John, Pamela Mitford (one of the Mitford sisters), a princess and several femme fatales- Barbara Skelton , Angela Culme Seymour and her maternal half sister Jane Woolley.

Books and publicationsEdit

  • Jackson, D. A. (1928). "Hyperfine structure in the arc spectrum of caesium and nuclear rotation". Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A. 121: 432. Bibcode:1928RSPSA.121..432J. doi:10.1098/rspa.1928.0207.


  1. ^ a b Kuhn, H. G.; Hartley, Christopher (1983). "Derek Ainslie Jackson. 23 June 1906 – 20 February 1982". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 29: 268. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1983.0012. JSTOR 769805.
  2. ^ Bleaney, B. (2001). "Derek Ainslie Jackson (1906–1982): Some recollections of a great European spectroscopist". Notes and Records of the Royal Society. 55 (2): 285. doi:10.1098/rsnr.2001.0144. JSTOR 532101.
  3. ^ Jack Morrell, (2004). "Jackson, Derek Ainslie (1906–1982)". The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/31279.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  4. ^ Nancy Mitford spied on sisters
  5. ^ Simon Courtauld (2007). As I Was Going to St Ives: A Life of Derek Jackson. Norwich [U.K.]: Michael Russell. ISBN 0-85955-311-6.
  6. ^ ‘Derek, please, not so fast’, Ferdinand Mount, London Review of Books, 7 February 2008
Secondary sources