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Sir George Paget Thomson

Born 3 May 1892(1892-05-03)
Cambridge, England
Died 10 September 1975 (aged 83)
Cambridge, England
Nationality United Kingdom
Fields Physics
Institutions University of Aberdeen
University of Cambridge
Imperial College London
Alma mater University of Cambridge
Doctoral advisor John Strutt (Rayleigh)
Doctoral students Ishrat Hussain Usmani
Known for Electron diffraction
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Physics (1937)

Sir George Paget Thomson, FRS (3 May 1892 – 10 September 1975) was an English physicist and Nobel laureate in physics recognised for his discovery with Clinton Davisson of the wave properties of the electron by electron diffraction.

Contents

Biography

Thomson was born in Cambridge, England, the son of physicist and Nobel laureate J. J. Thomson and Rose Elisabeth Paget, the daughter of the professor of medicine at the University of Cambridge. Thomson went to The Perse School, Cambridge before going onto read mathematics and physics at Trinity College, Cambridge, until the outbreak of World War I in 1914, when he was commissioned into the Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment. After brief service in France, he worked on aerodynamics at Farnborough and elsewhere. He resigned his commission as a Captain in 1920.

In 1924, Thomson married Kathleen Buchanan Smith, daughter of the Very Rev. Sir George Adam Smith. They had four children, two sons and two daughters. Kathleen died in 1941.

Career

After briefly serving in the First World War Thomson became a Fellow at Cambridge and then moved to the University of Aberdeen. George Thomson was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1937 for his work in Aberdeen in discovering the wave-like properties of the electron. The prize was shared with Clinton Joseph Davisson who had made the same discovery independently. Whereas his father had seen the electron as a particle (and won his Nobel Prize in the process), Thomson demonstrated that it could be diffracted like a wave, a discovery proving the principle of wave-particle duality which had first been posited by Louis-Victor de Broglie in the 1920s as what is often dubbed the de Broglie hypothesis.

In 1930 he was appointed Professor at Imperial College. In the late 1930s and during the Second World War Thomson specialised in nuclear physics, concentrating on practical military applications. In particular Thomson was the chairman of the crucial MAUD Committee in 1940-1941 that concluded that an atomic bomb was feasible. In later life he continued this work on nuclear energy but also wrote works on aerodynamics and the value of science in society.

Thomson stayed at Imperial College until 1952, when he became Master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. In 1964, the college honoured his tenure with the George Thomson Building, an outstanding work of modernist architecture on the college's Leckhampton campus.

Thomson was knighted in 1943.

References

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Sir William Spens
Master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
1952-1962
Succeeded by
Sir Frank Godbould Lee
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