Norman Alexander

Sir Norman Stanley Alexander Kt CBE (7 October 1907 – 26 March 1997) was a New Zealand physicist instrumental in the establishment of many Commonwealth universities, including Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria, and the Universities of the West Indies, the South Pacific and Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland.[1] He was Knighted in 1966.

Early lifeEdit

Alexander was born in Te Awamutu, New Zealand. Alexander was one of eight children of farmers whose ancestors were immigrants from the United Kingdom and Denmark.[1]

Alexander took his early education at Hamilton Boys' High School before moving to the University of Auckland to study physics, graduating with a Bachelor of Science with first class honours in 1927.[1] In 1930, Alexander achieved a two-year scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge to study physics at the Cavendish Laboratory with Ernest Rutherford.[1]

World War IIEdit

He was imprisoned in Changi Prison in 1942, and word had made its way to New Zealand that he had died, only later to be told that he was actually still alive. Using his academic knowledge, Alexander helped to build a salt evaporation plant at Changi and a small industrial plant that fermented surgical spirit and other products for prison hospital. Upon release, he eventually headed a New Zealand commission of investigation into abuses at Sime Road Internment Camp.

Career summaryEdit

Personal lifeEdit

Alexander was married to noted meteorologist Frances Elizabeth Somerville Alexander née Caldwell and have three children William (1937), Mary (1939) and Bernice (1941).[3]

Awards and honoursEdit

Alexander was promoted to Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1959 Birthday Honours,[4] and was knighted in March 1966.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d Harris, Mary (4 April 1997). "Obituary: Sir Norman Alexander". The Independent.
  2. ^ Taylor, Alister, ed. (1998). The New Zealand Roll of Honour 1945–1995. Auckland, NZ: Roll of Honour Publications. ISBN 978-0-90857-858-0.
  3. ^ Wayne Orchiston (8 December 2015). Exploring the History of New Zealand Astronomy: Trials, Tribulations, Telescopes and Transits. Springer. p. 630. ISBN 978-3-319-22566-1. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  4. ^ "No. 41727". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 June 1959. p. 3720.
  5. ^ "No. 43928". The London Gazette. 18 March 1966. p. 3065.