Kenneth T. Dolder

Professor of atomic physics, 1973-1989

Professor Dolder graduated from Imperial College, London, in 1951 and remained there to conduct research in electron Physics under the supervision of Otto Klemperer. This led to the award of the Ph.d. degree in 1954. He then moved to the Atomic Energy Research establishment at Harwell which, at that time, was directed by Sir John Cockcroft.

These were the early days of research into controlled thermonuclear Fusion and he initially worked on the magnetohydrodynamic flow of very hot gases (i.e. plasmas) produced by intense shock waves. Failure of the ZETA torus to fulfil expectations for the production of cheap thermonuclear energy led to a fundamental reappraisal of very hot plasmas, which are essentially assemblises of electrons and ions that collide violently. In collaboration with two colleagues he performed the first successful experiments on the inelastic collisions between charged particles and so initiated a branch of plasma physics that is now extensively studied internationally.

Dolder arrived at Newcastle as a lecturer in 1963 and made numerous advances in the study of charged particle collisions, principally in collaboration with Dr. B. Peart. Perhaps the most significant development was the first use of intense VUV radiation (from the Daresbury synchrotron) to obtain absolute cross sections for the ionization of positive atomic ions. It revealed a wealth of new data that showed unsuspected importance of the inner shell electrons in determining properties of ions that are found in astrophysical and thermonuclear plasmas. This constituted a new field of atomic spectroscopy that is still in its infancy. He succeeded W.R. Hindmarsh as Professor of Atomic Physics in 1973.


K.T. Dolder, 1986.