Wife Pamela Mitford, Partner Angela Culme-Seymour
Rugby School, Lawrence Sheriff St, Rugby CV22 5EH, UK
University of Cambridge, 4 Mill Ln, Cambridge CB2 1RZ, UK
University of Oxford, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3PA, UK
Rignell House, S Newington Rd, Barford St Michael, Banbury OX15 0PN, UK
Tullamaine Castle, Tullamaine, Fethard, Co. Tipperary, Ireland
Derek Ainslie Jackson, OBE, DFC, AFC, FRS (23 June 1906 – 20 February 1982) was a spectroscopist and also a jockey. Derek Jackson was one of the outstanding atomic physicists of his generation.
Son of a wealthy Welshman, Sir Charles Jackson, who was both a leading authority on antique silver and chairman of the News of the World, Jackson showed early promise in the field of spectroscopy under the guidance of Professor Lindemann, making the first quantitative determination of a nuclear magnetic spin using atomic spectroscopy to measure the hyperfine structure of caesium. Sir Charles Jackson was well known as an authority on English silver and author of books on this subject: English goldsmiths and their marks (1905) and Illustrated history of the English plate (1911). His collection of silver is now at the N ational M useum of W ales, Cardiff.
Derek and his twin brother Vivian greatly admired their father; although they were only 14 when he died, Derek’s life-long interest in art probably owed much to his father’s influence. Their mother, Ada Elisabeth, daughter of Samuel Owen Williams, appears to have taken little part in the education of the twins; she died when they were only 18. The only other child was their sister Daphne who was 10 years older than the twins and had little contact with them; she died during World War I. The twins thus grew up almost like orphans, in conditions of material wealth and in surroundings of culture and select taste, but apparently with little parental guidance. After their father’s death a guardian was in charge of the family finances, and up to the age of 30 Derek and Vivian Jackson depended on him for the income from the trusts established by their father.
After his school days at Rugby, Derek Jackson went to Cambridge in 1923 as a Scholar of Trinity College. He obtained first class honours in the Natural Science Tripos in 1926, and a B.A. in 1927.
Derek Jackson must have developed his marked interest in spectroscopy early in his undergraduate days if not before. A story current in Oxford and obviously originating from him self tells of their guardian offering to release some money for buying a Christmas present of their own choice for the Jackson twins; they asked for a spectrograph. This story tallies with the undoubted fact that in 1927 an excellent Hilger autocollimating spectrograph of focal length 3 metres appeared in the Clarendon Laboratory, together with Derek Jackson himself. The instrument is described in Jackson’s first publication and was used by him all his life, first at Oxford, later in Paris.
In 1932 Jackson was given the Oxford M.A., by incorporation at Balliol College, and in 1935 he received the degree of D.Sc. of Oxford University. He appears to have made hardly any use of his connection with the College. In 1934 he was m ade a University Lecturer in Spectroscopy, and in 1947 Professor of Spectroscopy, in succession to Sir Thomas Merton.
His scientific research at Oxford did not, however, interfere with his other great passion – steeplechase riding – which led him from the foxhunting field to his first ride in the Grand National of 1935. A keen huntsman, he took up the sport again after the war, riding in two more Nationals after the war, the last time when he was 40 years old. In World War II, Jackson distinguished himself in the RAF, making an important scientific contribution to Britain's air defences and to the bomber offensive. He flew more than a thousand hours as a navigator, many of them in combat in night-fighters, with No. 604 (County of Middlesex) Squadron based at RAF Middle Wallop. He was decorated with the DFC, AFC and OBE. This war record stands in contrast to his stated desire at the war's inception to keep Britain out of fighting Germany, and his reported desire "that all Jews in England should be killed". For the rest of his life, Jackson, appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1947, lived as a tax exile in Ireland, France and Switzerland. He continued his spectroscopic work in France at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique, and was made a chevalier de la Légion d'honneur. Jackson had what might be called a colourful personal life.
A "rampant bisexual", he was married six times, and also lived for three years with Angela Culme-Seymour, the half-sister of Janetta Wooley, one of his wives. The others included a daughter of Augustus John, Pamela Mitford (one of the Mitford sisters), a princess and several femme fatales including Barbara Skelton (in whose obituary in the Independent is noted her remark that it was "not for love that (she) married Professor Jackson", he being identified as "the millionaire son of the founder of the News of the World").
In the 1930s Jackson had much connection with the artistic—literary set of Augustus John, Lytton Strachey, Henry Lamb who painted his portrait, Lord Berners and the Mitfords, daughters of Lord Redesdale. In 1931 he married Poppet, daughter of Augustus John. As judged by Michael Holroyd’s book on Augustus John, life with him as father-in-law cannot have been easy. At any rate, the marriage did not last long; it was dissolved in 1936. In the same year Jackson married the Hon. Pamela Mitford, one of the daughters of Lord Redesdale. This made him a brother-in-law of Lady Mosley; he had met Sir Oswald Mosley in 1932, and it was this new family connection that gave rise to press comments on Jackson as a ‘follower of Oswald Mosley’. From 1936 until 1947 Derek and Pamela Jackson lived at Rignell House not far from Oxford, in beautiful, rural surroundings. It was an attractive, spacious house where visitors found comfort without any show of wealth, and also pictures and other objects of beauty, and where the attentive friendliness of host and hostess soon made them feel at home. They both appeared quite integrated with the village people, and their interest in fox-hunting obviously helped to bring this about. Even among Oxford University dons the social effects of this common interest in hunting could sometimes be observed in those days.
In 1940, during the scare caused by the invasion of France, Sir Oswald and Lady Mosley, a sister of Pamela Jackson, had been interned. When they were released in November 1943, Derek Jackson immediately offered them the hospitality of Rignell House until they could make arrangements for a new home. But hardly had they arrived when the Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison, telephoned and demanded their immediate departure for security reasons, so that they would not stay in the same house as Jackson who was involved in war work. The reports of this telephone conversation differ in details but obviously the insistence on applying some by then outdated rules greatly infuriated Jackson. In essence, he said that he, as a member of the armed forces, would not take orders from a civilian. He also appears to have said: ‘Well, Mr Home Secretary, when you have won the D .F .C ., the A .F .C . and the O .B .E. for valour, you can speak to me again.’ Eventually when the dust had settled, the Mosleys were allowed to stay at least for a while.
In 1947 Derek and Pamela Jackson moved to Tullamaine Castle in Eire. From then on, whatever the causes may have been, the course of Derek Jackson’s life became rather unsettled and restless for many years. While in Eire, he had some contacts w ith the Dunsink Observatory in Dublin. In February 1952 he went to Khartoum to take exposures of the eclipse with a Fabry—Perot etalon, the plates of which had been silver-coated at the Clarendon Laboratory, where he collected them at one of his rare visits.
The marriage to Pamela was dissolved in 1951, and in the same year he married Janetta Woolley; they had one daughter, Rose Janetta. Though this marriage was dissolved in 1956, Derek’s relation with his daughter Rose remained very close until his death. In 1957 he married Consuelo Regina Maria, daughter of W .S. Eyre and widow of Prince Ernst Ratibor zu Hohenlohe Schillingsfuerst.
In 1959 Jackson’s marriage with Consuelo Regina had been dissolved; in 1966 he married Barbara Skelton, but this marriage was dissolved after only about one year.
In 1968 he married Marie Christine, daughter of Baron Georges Reille. She was a young widow, with two daughters from her first husband. It turned out to be a very happy marriage; they had many interests in common, among them the love of horses and the interest in their pedigrees. She respected his unabated interest in atomic spectroscopy, and the equipment for accurate measurement of his photographic plates invaded even their home in Lausanne.
Som e troubles of circulation which Jackson had experienced in one leg became so serious that he had to undergo a severe operation in the autumn 1981. After some weeks of apparent, slow, recovery at his home in Lausanne, under the care of his wife Marie C hristine and his daughter Rose, his condition worsened again, and he died on 20 February 1982.
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