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Roughton, Francis John Worsley, 1899-1972 (physiologist)



Francis John Worsley Roughton was born on 6 January 1899 at Kettering where his father was the fifth successive Roughton to practice medicine. He was educated at Winchester College (Scholar) and Trinity College Cambridge (Scholar). As a young man he suffered from attacks of paroxysmal tachycardia. In consequence he was unable to serve in the First World War coming up to Trinity in 1917 on leaving Winchester. He was also advised that his cardiac condition precluded his planned career in medicine. His academic distinction was such (1st Class Natural Sciences Tripos Part I) that although he was unable to take his Part II examinations because of repeated cardiac attacks he was treated as if he had done so, and became a graduate student. On completion of his thesis he was elected to a Fellowship at Trinity (1923). He was successively Lecturer in Biochemistry, 1923-1927 and Lecturer in Physiology, 1927-1947, at Cambridge. In 1925 he married Alice Hopkinson whose father had been Professor of Engineering at Cambridge. They had two children Geoffrey and Rosemary. The foundations of Roughton's research career were laid working with H. Hartridge to make the first rapid kinetic measurement on a solution by the mixing method. His interest in these early years was mainly physiology and Roughton, with three other young Cambridge scientists M. Dixon, J. Needham and H. Tunnicliffe, belonged to an informal association called the Canula Club which met to discuss topics in physiology. In 1929 he was Rockefeller travelling fellow in the USA and was back again in America in 1940 at the Harvard Fatigue Laboratory, conducting war-related research, chiefly on the effects of carbon monoxide on respiration. Roughton returned to Cambridge at the end of the Second World War and in 1947 accepted an invitation to become the second John Humphrey Plummer Professor of Colloid Science (in succession to E.K. Rideal) and Head of the Department of Colloid Science. He presided over a rather disparate group in the Department whose interests ranged from physical chemistry of proteins to ore flotation. During the latter part of his tenure he attempted to re-direct the work of the Department towards the study of membranes and biological surface effects. However, such were the doubts about the existence of a definable subject called Colloid Science that on his retirement in 1966 the title of the department was extinguished in favour of Biophysics. During the last 15 years of his life he spent an increasing amount of time in California and Milan working on the basic problems of respiratory physiology and of the carbon dioxide - haemoglobin interaction. Roughton was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1936. He died at Cambridge on 29 April 1972. For a fuller account of the life and career of Roughton see Q.H. Gibson's memoir for the Royal Society on which this outline has freely drawn (Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, vol 19 (1973), 563-582).

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:


Francis Roughton: Papers

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Roughton
Scope and Contents

The collection is comprised of a large number of biographical and personal materials, materials related to Roughton's work in the Department of Colloid Science at Cambridge (with much of the material related to Roughton's retirement), a small amount of material documenting Roughton's publications, and a few pieces of Roughton's scientific correspondence. The principal deposit of Roughton papers is housed at the American Philosophical Society Library, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

Dates: 1905-1973
Conditions Governing Access: Some items are restricted at the discretion of the Keeper of Manuscripts.

Additional filters:

Colloids 1
Mathematics 1
Natural sciences 1
Physiology 1