William Lawrence Bragg

William Lawrence Bragg
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William Lawrence Bragg (1890 - 1971)

William Lawrence Bragg (1890 - 1971)
Born31 March 1890(1890--)
North Adelaide, South Australia
Died1 July 1971 (aged 81)
Ipswich, Suffolk, England
Residence Australia, UK
Nationality Australian- English
InstitutionsUniversity of Manchester
Cambridge University
Alma materUniversity of Adelaide
Cambridge University
Academic advisor  J.J. Thompson
W.H. Bragg
Notable students  John Crank
Ronald Wilfried Gurney
Known forX-ray diffraction
Notable prizes Nobel Prize in Physics (1915)
Youngest person to ever receive a Nobel Prize. He is the son of W.H. Bragg. Note that the PhD did not exist at Cambridge until 1919, and so J.J. Thompson and W.H. Bragg were his Master's advisors.
Sir William Lawrence Bragg CH, FRS, (31 March 18901 July 1971) was an Australian physicist who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 with his father Sir William Henry Bragg. He was the director of the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge when the epochal discovery of the structure of DNA was made by James Watson and Francis Crick in February 1953.

Biography

Bragg was born in North Adelaide, South Australia. He was an impressionable boy and showed an early interest in science and mathematics. His father, William Henry Bragg, was Professor of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Adelaide. Shortly after starting school aged 5, William Lawrence Bragg fell from his tricycle and broke his arm. His father had recently read about Röntgen's experiments in Europe and used the newly discovered X-rays to examine the broken arm. This is the first recorded surgical use of X-rays in Australia.

Bragg was a very able student. After beginning his studies at St Peter's College, in 1904 he went to the University of Adelaide at age 14 to study mathematics, chemistry and physics, graduating in 1908. In the same year his father accepted a job at the University of Leeds, and brought the family back to England. Bragg entered Trinity College, Cambridge in the autumn of 1909 and received a major scholarship in mathematics, despite taking the exam while in bed with pneumonia. After initially excelling in mathematics, he transferred to the physics course in the later years of his studies, and graduated in 1911.

Bragg is most famous for his law on the diffraction of X-rays by crystals. Bragg's law makes it possible to calculate the positions of the atoms within a crystal from the way in which an X-ray beam is diffracted by the crystal lattice. He made this discovery in 1912, during his first year as a research student in Cambridge. He discussed his ideas with his father, who developed the X-ray spectrometer in Leeds. This tool allowed many different types of crystals to be analysed. The collaboration between father and son led many people to believe that the father had initiated the research, a fact that upset the son.

Bragg's research work was interrupted by both World War I and World War II. During both wars he worked on sound ranging methods for locating enemy guns. In autumn 1915 his brother was killed at Gallipoli. At about the same time, William Lawrence Bragg received the news that he had become the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Prize in Physics, aged 25. Between the wars, from 1919 to 1937, he worked at the Victoria University of Manchester as Langworthy Professor of Physics. He married Alice Hopkinson in 1921. He was knighted in 1941.

After World War II, he returned to Cambridge, splitting the Cavendish Laboratory into research groups. He believed that 'the ideal research unit is one of six to twelve scientists and a few assistants'. In 1948 Bragg became interested in the structure of proteins and was partly responsible for creating a group that used physics to solve biological problems. He played a major part in the 1953 discovery of the structure of DNA, in that he provided support to Francis Crick and James D. Watson who worked under his aegis at the Cavendish. Bragg was gratified to see that the X-ray method that he developed forty years before was at the heart of this profound insight into the nature of life itself. At the same time at the Cavendish Max Perutz was also doing his Nobel Prize winning work on the structure of haemoglobin. Bragg subsequently successfully lobbied for and nominated Crick, Watson and Maurice Wilkins for the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; Wilkins' share recognised the contribution made by researchers at King's College London to the determination of the structure of DNA.

In April 1953 Bragg accepted the job of Resident Professor at the Royal Institution in London. He proposed that the Royal Institution should perform some form of public service, and suggested a series of lectures to show experiments to schoolchildren. This idea was met with an enthusiastic response, and by 1965 20,000 schoolchildren were attending these lectures each year. He worked at the Royal Institution until his retirement in September 1966.

William Lawrence Bragg's hobbies included painting, literature and a life-long interest in gardening. When he moved to London, he missed having a garden and so worked as a part-time gardener, unrecognised by his employer, until a guest at the house expressed surprise at seeing him there.

Bragg received both the Copley Medal and the Royal Medal of the Royal Society, and in 1967 was made a Companion of Honour by the Queen. He died at a hospital near his home at Waldringford on 1 July 1971.

Since 1992 the Australian Institute of Physics has awarded the Bragg Gold Medal for Excellence in Physics for the best PhD thesis by a student at an Australian university.
  • spouse = Alice Hopkinson (m. 1921)
  • children = Stephen Lawrence, David William, Margaret Alice, Patience Mary

Timeline

Prizes

References

Biography: "Light Is A Messenger, the life and science of William Lawrence Bragg" by Graeme Hunter, ISBN 0-19-852921-X; Oxford University Press, 2004.

Ridley, Matt; "Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code (Eminent Lives)" first published in July 2006 in the USA and then in the UK. September 2006, by HarperCollins Publishers; 192 pp, ISBN 0-06-082333-X; [This short book is in the publisher's "Eminent Lives" series.]

External links




Persondata
NAMEBragg, William Lawrence
ALTERNATIVE NAMES
SHORT DESCRIPTIONAustralian physicist, Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine
DATE OF BIRTHMarch 31, 1890
PLACE OF BIRTHNorth Adelaide, South Australia
DATE OF DEATHJuly 1, 1971
PLACE OF DEATHWaldringford, Australia
March 31 is the 1st day of the year (2nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 0 days remaining.

Events


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18th century - 19th century - 20th century
1860s  1870s  1880s  - 1890s -  1900s  1910s  1920s
1887 1888 1889 - 1890 - 1891 1892 1893

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North Adelaide
Adelaide, South Australia

North Adelaide looking down King William Road to St Peter's Cathedral

Population: 7,087 [1]

Established: 1837


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South Australia

Flag Coat of Arms
Slogan or Nickname: Festival State

Other Australian states and territories
Capital Adelaide
Government Constitutional monarchy
Governor Kevin Scarce
Premier Mike Rann (ALP)
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Year 1971 (MCMLXXI
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Ipswich (pronounced /ˈɪpswɪtʃ/) is a non-metropolitan district in Suffolk, England on the estuary of the River Orwell.
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    Suffolk (pronounced /'sʌfək/) is a historic and non-metropolitan county in East Anglia, England. It has borders with Norfolk to the north, Cambridgeshire to the west and Essex to the south.
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    "God and my right"
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    No official anthem specific to England — the anthem of the United Kingdom is "God Save the Queen".
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    Anthem
    Advance Australia Fair [1]


    Capital Canberra

    Largest city Sydney
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    Motto
    Dieu et mon droit   (French)
    "God and my right"
    Anthem
    No official anthem specific to England — the anthem of the United Kingdom is "God Save the Queen".
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    The University of Manchester is a university located in Manchester, England. With over 40,000 students studying 500 academic programmes, more than 10,000 staff and an annual income of nearly £600 million it is the largest single-site University in the United Kingdom and receives
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    University of Cambridge (often Cambridge University), located in Cambridge, England, is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and has a reputation as one of the world's most prestigious universities.
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    The University of Adelaide (colloquially Adelaide University or Adelaide Uni) is a public university located in Adelaide. Established in 1874, the university is the third oldest in Australia.
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    University of Cambridge (often Cambridge University), located in Cambridge, England, is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and has a reputation as one of the world's most prestigious universities.
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    Sir Joseph John Thomson

    Born 1856-12-18
    Cheetham Hill, Manchester, UK
    Died 30 July 1940 (aged 85)
    Cambridge, UK
    Residence United Kingdom
    Nationality  United Kingdom
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    William Henry Bragg
    Born 2 July 1862(1862--)
    Wigton, Cumberland, England
    Died 12 March 1942 (aged 81)
    London, England
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    John Crank (6 February 1916 - 3 October 2006) was a mathematical physicist, best known for his work on the numerical solution of partial differential equations.

    Crank was born in Hindley in Lancashire. His father was a carpenter's pattern-maker.
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    X-rays (or Röntgen rays) are a form of electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength in the range of 10 to 0.01 nanometers, corresponding to frequencies in the range 30 PHz to 30 EHz. X-rays are primarily used for diagnostic radiography and crystallography.
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    Nobel Prize in Physics (Swedish: Nobelpriset i fysik) is awarded once a year by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It is one of the six Nobel Prizes. The first prize was awarded in 1901.
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    William Henry Bragg
    Born 2 July 1862(1862--)
    Wigton, Cumberland, England
    Died 12 March 1942 (aged 81)
    London, England
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    Sir Joseph John Thomson

    Born 1856-12-18
    Cheetham Hill, Manchester, UK
    Died 30 July 1940 (aged 85)
    Cambridge, UK
    Residence United Kingdom
    Nationality  United Kingdom
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    William Henry Bragg
    Born 2 July 1862(1862--)
    Wigton, Cumberland, England
    Died 12 March 1942 (aged 81)
    London, England
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    The Order of the Companions of Honour is a British and Commonwealth Order. It was founded by King George V in June 1917, as a reward for outstanding achievements in the arts, literature, music, science, politics, industry, or religion.
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    Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge, known simply as The Royal Society, is a learned society for science that was founded in 1660 and claims to be the oldest such society still in existence.
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    March 31 is the 1st day of the year (2nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 0 days remaining.

    Events


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    18th century - 19th century - 20th century
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    1887 1888 1889 - 1890 - 1891 1892 1893

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    Subjects:     Archaeology - Architecture -
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    July 1 is the 1st day of the year (2nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 0 days remaining. The end of this day marks the halfway point of a leap year.
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