Skip to content
Fellows Directory

Denys Wilkinson

Sir Denys Wilkinson FRS


Elected: 1956


Denys Wilkinson was an experimental nuclear physicist with distinguished work on the properties of nuclei with low numbers of nucleons (protons and neutrons). He was amongst the first to experimentally test rules relating to isospin, historically known as isotopic spin — a quantum property which is conserved when nucleons decay or interact.

Denys invented a number of electronic devices for his experiments. His Wilkinson analogue-to-digital converter (Wilkinson ADC) is widely used and converts smoothly varying (analogue) data into a digital form that can be processed by a computer. He also applied concepts from physics to study bird navigation, investigating the nonrandomness of flight direction chosen by individually released birds.

Denys contributed to many scientific and academic bodies, including the National Institute for Research in Nuclear Science, the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management and CERN. He was also Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex. Denys was elected President of the Institute of Physics in 1980. He was knighted in 1974.

Sir Denys Wilkinson FRS died on 22 April 2016.


  • Hughes Medal

    For his distinguished experimental and theoretical investigation in nuclear structure and high energy physics.

  • Royal Medals

    In recognition of his highly original research in nuclear physics and of his outstanding contributions on giant resonances, radiative widths, second-class beta decay and the fundamental symmetries of nuclear interactions and also on instrumentation.

  • Rutherford Memorial Lecture

    Given in New Zealand.