National Records of Scotland

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Charles Thomson Rees Wilson (1869-1959)

Charles Thomson Rees Wilson (1869-1959)

Physicist and Nobel laureate

Charles Thomson Rees Wilson moved to Manchester with his family following the death of his father. He studied at the university there and at Cambridge where he graduated with first class honours in the natural sciences. In 1894 he spent several weeks at the Scottish Meteorological Society's observatory on Ben Nevis. This inspired his research at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge where he constructed glass-blown cloud chambers to investigate the formation of water droplets and fog. Further developments, notably photographs of the chambers, led to important discoveries in atomic physics. He also made a significant contribution to the study of amospheric electricity and thunderstorms. In 1927 Charles Thomson Rees Wilson was the joint winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics. He retired a few years later and returned to live in Scotland.

Birth in 1869

Charles Thomson Rees Wilson was born at 4 am on 14 February 1869, the son of John Wilson, farmer and Annie Clark Harper. The entry in the statutory register for the parish of Glencorse in the county of Edinburgh (now Midlothian) gives the place of birth as Crosshouse, Glencross.

Birth entry for Charles Thomson Rees Wilson

Birth entry for Charles Thomson Rees Wilson (56 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1869/687/5

1871 to 1901 censuses

In 1871 Charles T R Wilson, 2, was enumerated at Crosshouse with his family. The census return for the parish of Glencorse shows that his father farmed 1000 acres - 250 arable - and employed eight men and four women. The household included his sister Helen, brother George H and a visitor, Margaret E Harper. There were also three boarders, all agricultural students, and two servants.

1871 census return for Charles Thomson Rees Wilson

Detail from 1871 census return for Charles Thomson Rees Wilson (94 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1871/687/3, page 13

In 1881 the family were in Manchester.

In 1891 Charles T R Wilson, 22, student of science, was enumerated at Bank House. The census return for the parish of Penicuik in the county of Midlothian shows that his mother, 52, a widow living on private means, was the head of the household. It also included his brothers William, an East India merchant and George, a student of medicine, sisters Isabella and Helen, both living on private means and two servants. 1891 census return for Charles Thomson Rees Wilson

Detail from 1891 census return for Charles Thomson Rees Wilson (98 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1891/697/4, page 1

In 1901 Charles T R Wilson, 32, university lecturer in physics, Cambridge, was enumerated at Glencross House, North Gates. The census return for the parish of Peebles show that his brother, George H Wilson, a registered general practitioner was head of the household which also included his mother, sister and a general servant domestic.

1901 census return for Charles Thomson Rees Wilson

Detail from 1901 census return for Charles Thomson Rees Wilson (49 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1901/768/4, page 11

Marriage in 1908

C T R Wilson, 39, university lecturer, married Jessie Fraser Dick on 30 June 1908. The entry in the statutory register for the district of Bellshill in the county of Lanark gives his usual residence as Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, England. They married after banns according to the forms of the Free Church of Scotland.

Marriage entry for Charles Thomson Rees Wilson

Marriage entry for Charles Thomson Rees Wilson (94 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1908/625-3/84

Death in 1959

Charles Thomas Rees Wilson, 90, Jacksonian Professor of Natural Philosophy (retired) died at 7:05 am on 15 November 1959. The entry in the statutory register for the district of West Linton in the county of Peebles records the place of death as The Cottage, Carlops. The informant was his son. The note in the left margin, for clerical errors in columns 1 and 5 for the names of his wife and his mother respectively, has been initialled by the district examiner ('exr'). The error in his own name - Thomas instead of Thomson - has not been corrected.

Death entry for Charles Thomson Rees Wilson

Death entry for Charles Thomson Rees Wilson (58 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1959/773A/8