W. Ewart Williams was born on March 3, 1984 at Bodgarad, Rhostryfan, Caerns in Wales. He was the eldest son of Jane and Ellis William Williams; his father was the manager of Cilgwyn slate quarry. His brother, Robert Arthur Williams, was Chief Conservation Inspector for Sydney Harbor, Australia . His youngest brother, Stanley Haydn Williams spent more than fifty years as a minister of the Presbyterian Church in Wales.
After attending local schools in Wales, he entered Owens College, Manchester University, in Manchester England (currently part of the University of Manchester). At Manchester University he had Rutherford, Bohr and Darwin as tutors. He graduated with honors in physics in 1915 and gained his M.Sc. (Manchester) degree in 1926 . After training with Barr Stroud Range Finder Makers, Glasgow (1917-1920), he became responsible for developing polarimetric and spectroscopic instruments of high resolution for Adam Hilger, Ltd. in London.
At the recommendation of Prof. O.W. Richardson (Nobel Prize winner) he was appointed lecturer at King's College, University of London (1920-1939). Under the supervision of Appleton and Richardson he was awarded a D.Sc. (London) in 1934. He was presented with the Duddell Medal by the Physical Society of London in 1935 for his contribution to the techniques of high resolution measurements in spectroscopy and in 1936 he became a Leverhulme Fellow. In March 1938 he resigned and emigrated to Southern California and by 1946 he was an American citizen.
Williams' particular field of interest was interferometry and was international authority on the subject. His monograph, Applications of interferometry (1928, 1930, 1941, 1948, 1951, 1960 ) was translated into several languages and considered a standard text. In 1949 he sold his personal laboratory at Pasadena to the U.S. Air Force . He was involved with the Northrop Company and the invention of a window materials for the Mercury project . In 1952-53 he was the chief contractor for American Missile Control. In 1953, after a period of ill health and in collaboration with physician, Dr Olive Hoffman, at Pasadena Institute of Research, he investigated the infra-red absorption spectra of steroids which led to the development of a new type of oximeter. Unfortunately, both men died before seeing the fruits of their labor. In 1958 he joined the Firestone Tyre Company (makers of the Corporal Missile ).
Williams' contributed extensively to the Transactions of the Royal Society and the Physical Society of London ; Review of Modern Physics, Zeitschrift fur Physik and Nature as well as the traditional optics literature. Between 30 and 40 of his patents were accepted while working through various companies in the United Kingdom, Germany and the US. His patents include multiple submissions, the first filed in 1929 in the UK (1930 in the US), for an optical system used for the reproduction of sound recordings akin to the modern compact disc player. Williams invention is analog in nature and, of course, lacks a laser source which would not become available until about 30 years after his patent was filed. His other inventions include interferometric based micrometers and instruments for measuring fluid pressure as well as plastic lenses, polymerized materials and scratch resistent coatings.
Williams was among the temporary officers elected at the second meeting of the Optical Society of Southern Caliornia (OSSC) held on November 7, 1951 being elected as one of three Councilors. He was elected to a second term as Councilor in 1952 following formal recognition of the OSSC by the state of California and, as a local section, by the Optical Society of America. Williams went on to serve a third term as Councilor during the 1955-1956 active period.
Williams married Sarah Ellen Bottomley, New Hey, Rochdale; they had no children. His wife was a linguist, and shared her husband's interest in music. Williams died at Pasadena in April 29, 1966 and was buried in the family grave in Pisgah graveyard, Carmel, Caerns. He left a generous endowment to the University of Southern California to establish a scholarship to assist students of Welsh extraction to receive vocal and instrumental music training.
Welsh Biography Online: Williams, William Ewart, biography authored by Gwilym Arthur Jones, (1925-98), Bangor using information provided by Rev. Stanley H. Williams.