Constance Tipper

Working from the Engineering Department in Cambridge, Tipper demonstrated that the fractures were caused by the steel used rather than the fact that the ships had been welded, as was first thought. She established that there is a critical temperature below which the fracture mode in steel changes from ductile to brittle.

Ships in the North Atlantic were subjected to such low temperatures that they would have been susceptible to brittle failure. She wrote a book called ‘The Brittle Fracture Story’ published in 1962 by CUP.

Cambridge University appointed her a Reader in 1949. From this time she was a full member of the Faculty of Engineering and the only woman to hold office in the otherwise all male department.

Constance Tipper was also the first person to use the scanning electron microscope for the examination of metallic fracture faces.

She used the second SEM that was ever built, which was produced by a team headed by CW Oatley in the Department of Engineering.

She officially retired in 1960. Newnham College marked her 100th birthday with the planting of a sweet chestnut in the grounds, known as the ‘Tipper Tree’.

She died in 1995, aged 101.

Planting of Tipper Tree

Planting of the 'Tipper Tree'

Photographs courtesy of the Principal and Fellows of Newnham College.