Sir Clifford Charles Butler. 20 May 1922 – 30 June 1999

Ian Butterworth

Elected F.R.S. 1961


Clifford Butler was born in Earley, Reading, on 20 May 1922 to Charles and Olive Butler. An only child, he went to Reading School in 1932, having won a Berkshire County Council Educational Scholarship worth £15 per year. In addition to his academic work he was active in the Scouts and was a House Prefect (East House). Leaving school he went to Reading University to take physics, as did Kathleen Collins, whom he was to marry in 1947. Graduating in 1942 with a first–class BSc (Special) he stayed on as a demonstrator, his National Service taking the form of teaching radio as part of the State scheme to produce radar physicists, and acted part–time as a physicist at the Royal Berkshire Hospital. Kathleen went to work at the Road Research Laboratory. Butler found time, largely in the evenings, to undertake research for a PhD in electronic diffraction in the laboratory of Professor J.A. Crowther. He worked very closely with his thesis supervisor Dr Tom Rymer and it was there that he started to demonstrate his considerable skills in technical matters. His thesis, ‘some factors affecting precise measurement in electron diffraction’, was presented in April 1946 and was a detailed study, covering both technical and theoretical aspects, of how to improve the use of Debye–Scherrer electron–diffraction photographs to investigate crystal structure. The research on which it was based initiated four very different papers and led Crowther to predict, immediately after Butler's PhD examination, the latter's Fellowship of The Royal Society.

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