Sir Francis SIMON (1893–1956)
Low-temperature physicist and philanthropist
10 Belbroughton Road, Oxford
Franz Eugen Simon was born into a wealthy Jewish merchant family in Berlin in 1893. He completed his doctorate on specific heats at low temperatures at Berlin University and became Associate Professor in 1927. He was appointed to the Chair of Physical Chemistry at Breslau in 1931 and by now was regarded internationally as the outstanding low temperature physicist of his generation.
After Hitler came to power he was at first exempt from persecution because he had been awarded the Iron Cross (first class) for his service on the Western Front in the First World War, but he wisely accepted Lindemann’s invitation to join the academic community in Oxford. He became Reader in Thermodynamics in 1936 and a Student of Christ Church. From 1939 he was an important figure in the British ‘Tube Alloys’ Project and other aspects of Atomic Energy. In 1941 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Chair of Thermodynamics at Oxford was created specially for him. He verified experimentally the third law of thermodynamics and under his guidance Oxford became the world’s largest and most renowned centre for the study of low temperature physics. He was knighted in 1955 and succeeded Lindemann as Lee Professor of Experimental Philosophy and Head of the Clarendon Laboratory in 1956 shortly before his death.
He constantly inveighed against wastefulness of every kind, whether of natural or intellectual resources. He was alarmed by the shortage of scientists and engineers coming through the educational system. As scientific correspondent for the Financial Times 1948–51 he was forthright in expressing his views there and elsewhere.
Number 10 Belbroughton Road (above) was the Simon family home from 1933 until the death of Lady Simon in 2001. Here they received countless refugees and provided warm hospitality for former students, scientists and friends from all over the world.
- N. Kurti: Memoirs FRS 4 (1958)
- Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004)
The plaque was unveiled at 10 Belbroughton Road, Oxford on 10 December 2003 by Sir Martin Wood.
Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board
Low Temperature Physicist
Oxford Civic Society