Cottrell, Alan Howard 1919 - 2012

English; British

(b 1919) Knight Metallurgist

Sir Alan Cottrell, a central figure in the modern history of metallurgy, was born on the 17th July 1919 at 5 Brunswick Road, Balsall Heath, Birmingham. At the age of ten he went to Moseley Grammar School. Later he was given a Birmingham education committee award to stay in the sixth form to study physics, chemistry and mathematics. In 1936 he took a job at ICI Metals, but within a few weeks was offered a university scholarship, and chose to read metallurgy at Birmingham University. In June 1939 he graduated with first-class honours and was awarded a research scholarship to study the recovery of metals, on annealing. As a result of the onset of the Second World War he was, instead, asked to carry out research on the problem of cracking associated with the arc welding of alloy steels for tanks. He devised methods for avoiding the cracking by a preheating treatment, and obtained his PhD in 1942.

In 1955 Cottrell was elected a fellow of the Royal Society for his work on dislocations. He then became deputy head of the metallurgy division at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Harwell. In October 1958 Cottrell took up the Goldsmiths' chair and the headship of the department of metallurgy at Cambridge University, and was elected a fellow of Christ's College. In 1965 Cottrell became one of Zuckerman's two deputies at the Ministry of Defence (MOD) later succeeding Zuckerman, and becoming Chief Scientific Advisor in 1971, the same year he was knighted. In the spring of 1974 Cottrell returned to Cambridge to become master of Jesus College and retired as master in 1986, the same year that he was awarded the Kelvin medal of the Institute of Chemical Engineers.

He published many books throughout his career including -Theoretical Structural Metallurgy (1948) and Dislocations and Plastic Flow in Crystals (1953), Portrait of Nature (1975), Environmental Economics (1978) and How Safe is Nuclear Energy? (1981).

Cottrell died from a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, on 15 February 2012.