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Daphne Frances Jackson was born in Peterborough on 23 September 1936, the daughter and second child of Frances and Albert Jackson, an engineer’s lathe turner. In 1939 the family was living at 34 Willesden Avenue, Peterborough.

Daphne Jackson, Head Girl, 1954

Daphne joined Peterborough County Grammar School for Girls in 1947, was a prefect in 1953, head girl in 1954, and left in the summer of 1955 to read physics at Imperial College, London. In 1958 she was awarded the degree of B.Sc. (Special) Class II Division I of London University, and the Associateship of the Royal College of Science (A.R.C.S.), and in 1962 she was awarded a Ph.D. in Theoretical Nuclear Physics by London University.

Daphne was the first female Fellow of the Institute of Physics – and the youngest ever Fellow – and in 1971 she became Britain’s first female Professor of Physics when she was appointed by the University of Surrey, eventually becoming Dean of the Faculty of Science there. Daphne was president of the Women’s Engineering Society and vice-president of the Institute of Physics, and worked with several bodies including the Meteorological Office, the Institute for Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden Hospital. An article about Daphne was published in New Scientist magazine on 21 September 1972, a year after her appointment as Head of Physics at the University of Surrey.

Daphne Jackson

Daphne Jackson (Wikipedia)

Daphne was a campaigner for women’s rights and in 1985 set up the first retraining initiative to help women scientists return to research after a career break, saying “Imagine a society that would allow Marie Curie to stack shelves in a supermarket simply because she took a career break for family reasons“.  Two years later, Daphne was awarded the O.B.E. for Services to the Women’s Engineering Society.

Daphne lived in Guildford, where the University of Surrey is located, and died of cancer in 1991. The following year, the Daphne Jackson Trust was founded in her memory to continue to assist those returning to research after a career break. The University of Surrey’s Daphne Jackson Building, opened in 2002, houses the Advanced Technology Institute; within the building is a portrait of Daphne Jackson by Jane Allison. The University campus includes a road named Daphne Jackson Road, and Guildford High School has a Daphne Jackson laboratory.

The Institute of Physics established the Daphne Jackson Medal and Prize in 2016, awarded for exceptional early career contributions to physics education.

In 1998, a blue plaque was installed at her former home in Guildford, and in 2020, another blue plaque was installed in her honour by Peterborough Civic Society at the Lincoln Gate Sheltered Housing development, which was built on the site of the school.

Daphne features in several issues of the school magazine, Chronicle. In 1949 she was awarded a prize at speech day and wrote about her experience; the reason for the prize was not stated:

We read many different accounts of Speech Day by various members of the school, but nobody ever realises what it is to be one of those poor unfortunate girls who has to walk on to the stage and receive a prize. It is not so bad for older girls who have received prizes before, but for the inexperienced receiving her first prize it is a grim business. A few girls say that they wish they had got a prize and wonder that prizewinners don’t get “swelled heads,” but it is more probable that they get “cold feet.” The rest of the form don’t seem to realise that a prizewinner has to suffer endless rehearsals to make sure she walks smartly. We have to march up and down the hall and shake hands with a mistress, but when we are told to smile and look cheerful – that is the end.

This year the dreadful day dawned bringing another rehearsal at the Empire. We were sent home early to wash, dress and, if we were really unlucky, to have our hair curled. We went back to the Empire, the parents arrived and Mrs Mellows started the proceedings with a few cheery words. Then Miss Mathews read her report, which was quite interesting, but all the time something inside me kept saying, “After this, the prizes will be presented.” Mr Wood rose, and Miss Littleboy handed him the first books  and he gave them to the first girls. After a while it was my turn and I filed out with the rest of my row. We went out into the corridor and climbed up the steps on to the stage, Miss Mathews read out my name and I went on to the stage, shook hands and took my prize. And it wasn’t really so bad after all.

Daphne Jackson, L.IV.2.

The following year, Daphne took part in a play and wrote this article for the 1950 Chronicle:


During the Autumn Term when all the school was trying to raise funds for the radiogram, some stagestruck (and not so stagestruck) girls in UIV2 decided to put on a play. Miss Lemmon was duly pestered until she kindly dug out a play called “The Perfect Holiday,” an episode from “Little Women” by Louisa Alcott.

Permission was granted (after much pleading) by the staff for us to stay in the form room at break. We worked quite hard, believe it or not, writing parts out of our only copy of the play, learning our parts and beginning to collect our “props.”

An amusing incident occurred when we started to rehearse in the hall; at the end of one scene, “Jo” had to trip up carrying a pile of dinner plates, but knowing our mothers hadn’t a huge supply of plates, we used a tin tray and some flat pieces of metal. The crash came and the mistress on break duty came on to the balcony and said in angry tones, “And now what have you broken?”

We needed and odd collection of “props”: 1 dead canary, 1 epitaph, 1 suit of boys’ clothes, 1 dinner (salad, anchovy paste and strawberries and cream), and some other more ordinary things.

The boys’ clothes caused the most trouble. I had a blouse like a shirt, somebody borrowed a bow tie from her father, and then we were stuck. My brother is over six feet tall and all the other brothers were about seven or eight years old! But thank goodness, one of our form mates supplied jacket and trousers and a small bottle of Brylcreem. She also procured some tinned strawberries, condensed milk and anchovy paste. We plucked up courage to ask cook for school cutlery and plates. My mother supplied half a sheet for a tablecloth and a pair of my father’s socks.

Posters were planted in strategic positions and the rest of the form bullied, or “gently persuaded,” the rest of the school to buy tickets.

When the time came for our performance to begin, or troubles began. The curtains wouldn’t work. The travelling rug, with which the box had been disguised in an attempt to make it look like a settee or couch, kept slipping about. The back curtains were too short and the legs of people behind showed to the audience.

The play was “hitchless,” but I really had the best part because I was the only one who ate any of the strawberries. Incidentally, we had a marvellous feast with the food left over when everyone had gone. Even if we had not reached the peak of perfection in our production, the feast was well worth all our rehearsing.

“LAURIE” (Daphne Jackson, U.IV.2.)

The 1951 issue of Chronicle includes the news that Daphne was goalkeeper for the school’s second XI hockey team; she also wrote a tongue-in-cheek article about history.

In 1952, Daphne was one of the Chronicle magazine representatives, a member of the cricket team, and again played in goal for the second XI hockey team.

The following year Daphne was the assistant editor of Chronicle and wrote articles about the school’s coronation activities, and an amusing article about dieting. This year she was goalkeeper for the first XI hockey team and was selected for the Huntingdonshire Junior County team, along with seven other members of the team. Daphne was also the author of this poem:


Possum, posse, potui,
Theorem, problem, formulae,
Noun clause, complement, simile,
Gladstone, Cavour, Disraeli,
Zinc, potassium, mercury,
J’ai, nous sommes, vous faites, je suis,
Work, pressure, velocity,
Deren, denen, er, es, sie,
Whirling round so fev’rishly,
In the tired brain of me,
Until I mutter on bended knee
“O may the devil take all of ye!”

Daphne Jackson, VI.M.

Daphne was a prefect during her lower VIth year in 1953. Once again she acted as assistant editor of the Jubilee issue of Chronicle, published in 1954, and was goalkeeper for the first XI hockey team, receiving the report: This was the first season that Daphne had any real work to do and she played well.

In 1954-55, Daphne’s final year at the school, she was Head Girl. The 1955 issue of Chronicle included an article by Daphne about Peterborough Cathedral and another report of her efforts as goalkeeper for the first XI hockey team: Very seldom had much to do and so had very little chance to shine; she had very good judgement but was unreliable on the hard shot straight at her. It was also reported that Daphne left school in July, 1955 to take up a place at Imperial College of Science and Technology, London to read Physics, and she donated two books to the school library:  “Mathematics in Action” and “Mass Spectra and Isotopes.”

The next time Daphne’s name was printed in Chronicle was in 1958, when her degree results appeared in the Old Girls News section:

Daphne Jackson has been awarded the degree of B.Sc. (Special) Class II Division I of London University and the Associateship of the Royal College of Science (A.R.C.S.). She has taken up an appointment as research assistant at Battersea College of technology where she is studying for a higher degree in theoretical nuclear physics. This years he was a prizewinner in the Sir Arthur Acland English Essay competition which is open to all undergraduates of the College

Daphne spoke at the Jubilee meeting of Old Girls held on 19 September 1961, commemorating fifty years to the day of the school opening in its new premises at Cobden Avenue. The 1961 Chronicle reported:

Daphne Jackson, 1947-55, Head Girl in 1954-55, now lecturer in Physics at Battersea College of Technology, spoke for a more modern generation. But though the Education Act of 1944 has largely transformed the face of British Education, the County Grammar School remains substantially the same. We have an honoured tradition to maintain and, above all, during the 50 years of its history, our school has been eminently a happy school.

In 1962, Chronicle reported that Daphne had been awarded a Ph.D. in Theoretical Nuclear Physics by London University, and the following year provided the news that Daphne Jackson, who has now gained her doctorate, has been appointed as Research Assistant Professor in the Department on Physics at the University of Washington in Seattle and is now in U.S.A.

Daphne returned to the school on 28 March 1968 to present the prizes at Speech Day. The event was reported in Chronicle:

It was particularly pleasing to welcome as this year’s speaker an Old Girl of the school, Dr Daphne Jackson, Reader in Nuclear Physics at the University of Surrey and first woman Fellow of the Institute of Physics. In a speech very relevant to the futures of many present members of the school, Dr Jackson described some of the opportunities existing for women in the field of science, and the contribution that can be made by women. She also combatted the widely-held view of the scientist as unemotional and illiterate.