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Fellows Directory

John Nye

John Nye

Professor John Nye FRS


Elected: 1976


John Nye’s notable early contributions to crystal plasticity included (with Lawrence Bragg) the bubble-raft model and a study of geometrical relations in dislocated crystals that laid the foundations of continuous distributions of dislocations. His book on tensor properties of crystals is a standard work. In glaciology, he formulated the tensor-invariant generalisation of Glen’s nonlinear flow law for ice that forms the basis for modern glacier mechanics and explained, from his own field work, the origin of waves below ice falls. He also revealed how veins of water at three-grain junctions in temperate polycrystalline ice control its thermal behaviour.

John’s laboratory-sized model of the echo sounding of the Antarctic ice sheet used ultrasonic waves in place of much longer radio waves. With it, he discovered that monochromatic waves, quite generally, contain dislocations like those in crystals — thereby establishing (with Michael Berry) singular optics as a thriving new branch of optics. In particular, he revealed the fine-scale linear patterns of optical vortices that underlie the diffraction fields of the first five of Thom’s ‘elementary catastrophes’.

Professor John Nye FRS died on 8 January 2019.

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Earth and environmental sciences
    • Geophysics


Electromagnetic radiation, Optics, Glaciology, Periodic waves

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