Alexander Oliver Rankine (1881-1956)

Ri Secretary, 1945-1953

  • Alexander Oliver Rankine

    Alexander Oliver Rankine

    Credit: Royal Institution


Ri positions

  • Secretary, 1945-1953

Born in Guildford, he attended the Royal Grammar School there before studying at University College London, where he became an assistant in the Department of Physics in 1904. During the Great War he worked in the anti-submarine division at the Admiralty Experimental Station at Harwich.

In 1919 he succeeded Lord Rayleigh as Professor of Physics at Imperial College, a post he held until 1937 when he became Chief Physicist to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. He held this appointment for ten years although during the 1939-1945 war he was seconded to the Petroleum Warfare Department, where he developed the FIDO system to disperse fog on airfields.

As Secretary of the Royal Institution he was one of the key players in the Andrade affair in the early 1950s. Rankine opposed Andrade's attempts to reform how the Ri was run, which eventually resulted in the Members of the RI passing a vote of no confidence in Andrade in mid-1952.