Cyril Hilsum

Cyril Hilsum
London, England
Associated organizations
Admiralty Research Laboratory
Fields of study
IEEE David Sarnoff Award


Cyril Hilsum was Deputy Director of the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment, Malvern, England, and visiting Professor in Applied Physics and Electronics at the University of Durham.

He was born in London on May 17, 1925, and educated at University College, London, where he obtained both his first degree and his doctorate. He started research at the Admiralty Research Laboratory, Teddington, on atmospheric infra-red transmission, infra-red detection and imaging. In 1950 he began work at the Services Electronics Research Laboratory, Baldock on 111-V compounds, originally on photoeffects and galvanomagnetic effects in InSb and InAs. By 1960 he had extended his scope to include GaAs, working on material growth techniques, physical properties, and applications. His main interest was high electric-field effects, and he predicted the occurrence of negative resistance in GaAs due to electron transfer. He also worked on semiconductor lasers, and his group produced the first European lasers. He moved to RSRE in 1964, and for some years continued work on transferred electron microwave oscillators. By 1970 GaAs devices had become established in many countries, and he turned his attention to InP, starting a programme which has since led to efficient high frequency sources. He then originated the co-ordinated UK programme on flat panel electronic displays, and by 1976 this had become his main interest. He has worked both on ZnS electroluminescent panels and on liquid crystals, where his prime concern has been the development and application of new stable materials.

Professor Hilsum has progressed through the UK Government science hierarchy via promotion on individual scientific merit, avoiding administrative responsibility until this year. In 1974 he was promoted to Chief Scientific Officer, the highest individual merit rank in the British Civil Service. His present position, with responsibility for the RSRE Physics, Electronics, and Optics Groups, must be viewed as a perturbation, and he plans to return to active research in 1982.

He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Fellow of the Fellowship of Engineering. He is a Senior Member of the IEEE having joined in 1977 when he started service on E.D.S. - Adcom. He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and of the Institution of Electrical Engineers. He was the chairman of the Semiconductor Commission of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics. He was active in lecturing and technical writing, and has written over 100 papers and 20 patents.

Cyril Hilsum and his wife, Betty, lived in Malvern, England. They had two daughters. His hobbies are tennis, chess and ballroom dancing.