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William Henry Bragg

William Henry Bragg

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Sir William Henry Bragg OM
Order of Merit
The Order of Merit is a British dynastic order recognising distinguished service in the armed forces, science, art, literature, or for the promotion of culture...

, KBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

, PRS
President of the Royal Society
The president of the Royal Society is the elected director of the Royal Society of London. After informal meetings at Gresham College, the Royal Society was founded officially on 15 July 1662 for the encouragement of ‘philosophical studies’, by a royal charter which nominated William Brouncker as...

 (2 July 1862 – 10 March 1942) was a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

, chemist
Chemist
A chemist is a scientist trained in the study of chemistry. Chemists study the composition of matter and its properties such as density and acidity. Chemists carefully describe the properties they study in terms of quantities, with detail on the level of molecules and their component atoms...

, mathematician
Mathematician
A mathematician is a person whose primary area of study is the field of mathematics. Mathematicians are concerned with quantity, structure, space, and change....

 and active sportsman who uniquely shared a Nobel Prize with his son William Lawrence Bragg
William Lawrence Bragg
Sir William Lawrence Bragg CH OBE MC FRS was an Australian-born British physicist and X-ray crystallographer, discoverer of the Bragg law of X-ray diffraction, which is basic for the determination of crystal structure. He was joint winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915. He was knighted...

 - the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics
Nobel Prize in Physics
The Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded once a year by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895 and awarded since 1901; the others are the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Literature, Nobel Peace Prize, and...

. The mineral Braggite
Braggite
Braggite is a sulfide mineral of platinum, palladium and nickel with chemical formula: S. It is a dense , steel grey, opaque mineral which crystallizes in the tetragonal crystal system...

 is named after him and his son.

Early years


Bragg was born at Westward near Wigton
Wigton
Wigton is a small market town and civil parish outside the Lake District, in the administrative county of Cumbria in England, and traditionally in Cumberland. It is the bustling and thriving centre of the Solway Plain, situated between the Caldbeck Fells and the Solway coast...

, Cumberland
Cumberland
Cumberland is a historic county of North West England, on the border with Scotland, from the 12th century until 1974. It formed an administrative county from 1889 to 1974 and now forms part of Cumbria....

, the son of Robert John Bragg, a merchant marine officer and farmer, and his wife Mary née Wood, a clergyman's daughter. When Bragg was seven years old, his mother died, and he was raised by his uncle, also named William Bragg, at Market Harborough
Market Harborough
Market Harborough is a market town within the Harborough district of Leicestershire, England.It has a population of 20,785 and is the administrative headquarters of Harborough District Council. It sits on the Northamptonshire-Leicestershire border...

, Leicestershire
Leicestershire
Leicestershire is a landlocked county in the English Midlands. It takes its name from the heavily populated City of Leicester, traditionally its administrative centre, although the City of Leicester unitary authority is today administered separately from the rest of Leicestershire...

. He was educated at the Old Grammar School there, at King William's College
King William's College
King William's College is a leading world International Baccalaureate HMC independent school for ages 3 to 18, situated near Castletown on the Isle of Man...

 on the Isle of Man
Isle of Man
The Isle of Man , otherwise known simply as Mann , is a self-governing British Crown Dependency, located in the Irish Sea between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, within the British Isles. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who holds the title of Lord of Mann. The Lord of Mann is...

, and having won an exhibition [scholarship], at Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

. He graduated in 1884 as third wrangler, and in 1885 was awarded a "first" in the mathematical tripos
Tripos
The University of Cambridge, England, divides the different kinds of honours bachelor's degree by Tripos , plural Triposes. The word has an obscure etymology, but may be traced to the three-legged stool candidates once used to sit on when taking oral examinations...

.

University of Adelaide


In 1885, (at the age of 23), Bragg was appointed Elder
Thomas Elder
Sir Thomas Elder GCMG was a Scottish-Australian pastoralist, highly successful businessman, philanthropist, politician, race-horse owner and breeder and public figure...

 Professor of Mathematics and Experimental Physics at the University of Adelaide
University of Adelaide
The University of Adelaide is a public university located in Adelaide, South Australia. Established in 1874, it is the third oldest university in Australia...

, and started work there early in 1886. Being a skilled mathematician, at that time he had limited knowledge of physics, most of which was in the form of applied mathematics he had learnt at Trinity. Also at that time, there were only about a hundred students doing full courses at Adelaide, of whom less than a handful belonged to the science school, whose deficient teaching facilities Bragg improved by apprenticing himself to a firm of instrument makers. Bragg was an able and popular lecturer; he encouraged the formation of the student union, and the attendance, free of charge, of science teachers at his lectures.

Bragg's interest in physics developed, particularly in the field of electromagnetism. In 1895 he was visited by Ernest Rutherford
Ernest Rutherford
Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson OM, FRS was a New Zealand-born British chemist and physicist who became known as the father of nuclear physics...

, en-route from New Zealand to Cambridge; this was the commencement of a lifelong friendship. "The turning-point in Bragg's career came in 1904 when he gave the presidential address to section A of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science at Dunedin
Dunedin
Dunedin is the second-largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the principal city of the Otago Region. It is considered to be one of the four main urban centres of New Zealand for historic, cultural, and geographic reasons. Dunedin was the largest city by territorial land area until...

, New Zealand", on "Some Recent Advances in the Theory of the Ionization of Gases". This idea was followed up "in a brilliant series of researches" which, within three years, earned him a fellowship of the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 of London. This paper was also the origin of his first book Studies in Radioactivity (1912). Soon after the delivery of his 1904 address, some radium bromide
Radium bromide
Radium bromide is the bromide salt of radium, with the formula RaBr2. It is produced during the separation of radium from uranium ore. This inorganic compound was discovered by Pierre and Marie Curie in 1898, which sparked a huge interest in radiochemistry, especially radiotherapy...

 was made available to Bragg for experimentation. In December 1904 his paper "On the Absorption of a Rays and on the Classification of the a Rays from Radium" appeared in the Philosophical Magazine, and in the same issue a paper "On the Ionization Curves of Radium", written in collaboration with his student Richard Kleeman, also appeared.

At the end of 1908 Bragg returned to England. During his 23 years in Australia "he had seen the number of students at the University of Adelaide almost quadruple, and had a full share in the development of its excellent science school."

Whilst in Adelaide
Adelaide
Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia and the fifth-largest city in Australia. Adelaide has an estimated population of more than 1.2 million...

, Bragg played tennis and golf, and as a founding member of the North Adelaide
North Adelaide
North Adelaide is a predominantly residential precinct of the City of Adelaide in South Australia, situated north of the River Torrens and within the Adelaide Park Lands.-History:...

 and Adelaide University Lacrosse Clubs, contributed to the introduction of lacrosse
Lacrosse
Lacrosse is a team sport of Native American origin played using a small rubber ball and a long-handled stick called a crosse or lacrosse stick, mainly played in the United States and Canada. It is a contact sport which requires padding. The head of the lacrosse stick is strung with loose mesh...

 to South Australia
South Australia
South Australia is a state of Australia in the southern central part of the country. It covers some of the most arid parts of the continent; with a total land area of , it is the fourth largest of Australia's six states and two territories.South Australia shares borders with all of the mainland...

. He also met Gwendoline née Todd, a skilled water-colour painter, whom he married in 1889. Their first son, William Lawrence, was born in North Adelaide in 1890.

University of Leeds


Bragg occupied the Cavendish chair of physics at the University of Leeds
University of Leeds
The University of Leeds is a British Redbrick university located in the city of Leeds, West Yorkshire, England...

 from 1909. He continued his work on X-rays with much success. He invented the X-ray spectrometer and with his son, William Lawrence Bragg
William Lawrence Bragg
Sir William Lawrence Bragg CH OBE MC FRS was an Australian-born British physicist and X-ray crystallographer, discoverer of the Bragg law of X-ray diffraction, which is basic for the determination of crystal structure. He was joint winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915. He was knighted...

, then a research student at Cambridge, founded the new science of X-ray analysis of crystal structure.

From 1914, both father and son contributed to the war effort; W.H. Bragg was connected with submarine detection, at Aberdour on Forth and at Harwich, and returned to London in 1918 as a consultant to the admiralty.

In 1915 father and son were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics
Nobel Prize in Physics
The Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded once a year by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895 and awarded since 1901; the others are the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Literature, Nobel Peace Prize, and...

 for their studies, using the X-ray spectrometer, of X-ray spectra, X-ray diffraction, and of crystal structure. Ten years later, their volume X-Rays and Crystal Structure (1915) had reached a fifth edition.

University College London


Bragg was appointed Quain Professor
Quain Professor
Quain Professor is the professorship title for certain disciplines at University College, London, England. The title is derived from Richard Quain who became professor of anatomy in 1832 at what was to become UCL...

 of physics at University College London
University College London
University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...

 in 1915, but did not take up his duties there until after World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. While Quain professor at London he continued his work on crystal analysis.

Royal Institution


From 1923 he was Fullerian professor of chemistry at the Royal Institution
Royal Institution
The Royal Institution of Great Britain is an organization devoted to scientific education and research, based in London.-Overview:...

 and director of the Davy Faraday Research Laboratory. This institution was practically rebuilt in 1929-30 and, under Bragg's directorship, many valuable papers were issued from the laboratory.

Legacy


Bragg was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1907, vice-president in 1920, and served as President of the Royal Society
President of the Royal Society
The president of the Royal Society is the elected director of the Royal Society of London. After informal meetings at Gresham College, the Royal Society was founded officially on 15 July 1662 for the encouragement of ‘philosophical studies’, by a royal charter which nominated William Brouncker as...

 from 1935 to 1940.

The lecture theatre of King William's College
King William's College
King William's College is a leading world International Baccalaureate HMC independent school for ages 3 to 18, situated near Castletown on the Isle of Man...

 (KWC) is named in memory of Bragg; the Sixth-Form invitational literary debating society at KWC, the Bragg Society, is also named in his memory. One of the school "Houses" at Robert Smyth School, Market Harborough, Leicester, is named "Bragg" in memory of him being a student there. Since 1992, the Australian Institute of Physics has awarded The Bragg Gold Medal for Excellence in Physics for the best PhD
Ph.D.
A Ph.D. is a Doctor of Philosophy, an academic degree.Ph.D. may also refer to:* Ph.D. , a 1980s British group*Piled Higher and Deeper, a web comic strip*PhD: Phantasy Degree, a Korean comic series* PhD Docbook renderer, an XML renderer...

 thesis by a student at an Australian University. The two sides of the medal contain the images of Sir William Henry and his son Sir William Lawrence Bragg.

In 1889 in Adelaide, W.H. Bragg married Gwendoline Todd, a skilled water-colour painter, and daughter of astronomer, meteorologist and electrical engineer Sir Charles Todd. They had three children, a daughter, Gwendolen and two sons, (William) Lawrence (W.L.) and Robert. Robert was killed in the Battle of Gallipoli
Battle of Gallipoli
The Gallipoli Campaign, also known as the Dardanelles Campaign or the Battle of Gallipoli, took place at the peninsula of Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire between 25 April 1915 and 9 January 1916, during the First World War...

. W.H.'s wife Gwendoline died in 1929. W.H. Bragg died in 1942 in England and was survived by his daughter Gwendolen (Mrs. Alban Caroe
Alban Caroe
Alban Douglas Rendall Caroe FSA FRIBA was a British architect.He was the son of W. D. Caroe and brother of Sir Olaf Caroe. He married Gwendolen Mary , daughter of William Henry Bragg. His son, with whom he worked, was Martin Caroe. His daughter, Lucy Caroe, historical geographer, married...

) and his son, Sir William Lawrence Bragg.

William H. Bragg was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1917, Knight Commander (KBE) in 1920, and was admitted to the Order of Merit
Order of Merit
The Order of Merit is a British dynastic order recognising distinguished service in the armed forces, science, art, literature, or for the promotion of culture...

 in 1931.

The Experimental Technique Centre at Brunel University
Brunel University
Brunel University is a public research university located in Uxbridge, London, United Kingdom. The university is named after the Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel....

 is named the Bragg Building.

In 1962, the Bragg Laboratories were constructed at The University of Adelaide to commemorate 100 years since the birth of Sir William H. Bragg.

Timeline

  • 1862 Born in Cumberland
  • 1869 Moved to Leicestershire
  • 1875 School on the Isle of Man
  • 1881-1885 Trinity College, Cambridge
    Trinity College, Cambridge
    Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

     - Student
  • 1886-1908 University of Adelaide
    University of Adelaide
    The University of Adelaide is a public university located in Adelaide, South Australia. Established in 1874, it is the third oldest university in Australia...

     - Elder Professor of Mathematics and Experimental Physics
  • 1889 Married Gwendoline Todd in Adelaide
  • 1890 William Lawrence Todd born in Adelaide
  • 1904 President of section A of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science
  • 1908 President of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science
  • 1909-15 University of Leeds
    University of Leeds
    The University of Leeds is a British Redbrick university located in the city of Leeds, West Yorkshire, England...

     - Cavendish chair of physics
  • 1915-23 University College London
    University College London
    University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...

     - Quain Professor
    Quain Professor
    Quain Professor is the professorship title for certain disciplines at University College, London, England. The title is derived from Richard Quain who became professor of anatomy in 1832 at what was to become UCL...

     of physics
  • Royal Institution
    Royal Institution
    The Royal Institution of Great Britain is an organization devoted to scientific education and research, based in London.-Overview:...

    • Fullerian professor of chemistry
    • Director of the Davy Faraday Research Laboratory
  • 1942 Died in London

Prizes

  • Nobel Prize
    Nobel Prize
    The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

     (1915)
  • Matteucci Medal
    Matteucci Medal
    The Matteucci Medal was established to award physicists for their fundamental contributions. Under an Italian Royal Decree dated July 10, 1870, the Italian Society of Sciences was authorized to receive a donation from Carlo Matteucci for the establishment of the Prize.Matteucci Medalists* 1868...

     (1915)
  • Rumford Medal
    Rumford Medal
    The Rumford Medal is awarded by the Royal Society every alternating year for "an outstandingly important recent discovery in the field of thermal or optical properties of matter made by a scientist working in Europe". First awarded in 1800, it was created after a 1796 donation of $5000 by the...

     (1916)
  • Copley Medal
    Copley Medal
    The Copley Medal is an award given by the Royal Society of London for "outstanding achievements in research in any branch of science, and alternates between the physical sciences and the biological sciences"...

     (1930)
  • Franklin Medal
    Franklin Medal
    The Franklin Medal was a science and engineering award presented by the Franklin Institute, of Philadelphia, PA, USA.-Laureates:*1915 - Thomas Alva Edison *1915 - Heike Kamerlingh Onnes *1916 - John J...

     (1930)
  • John J. Carty Award of the National Academy of Sciences
    United States National Academy of Sciences
    The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...

     (1939)

Publications

  • William Henry Bragg, The World of Sound (1920)
  • William Henry Bragg, The Crystalline State - The Romanes Lecture
    Romanes Lecture
    The Romanes Lecture is a prestigious free public lecture given annually at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, England.The lecture series was founded by, and named after, the biologist George Romanes, and has been running since 1892. Over the years, many notable figures from the Arts and Sciences have...

     for 1925. Oxford, 1925.
  • William Henry Bragg, Concerning the Nature of Things (1925)
  • William Henry Bragg, Old Trades and New Knowledge (1926)
  • William Henry Bragg, An Introduction to Crystal Analysis (1928)
  • William Henry Bragg, The Universe of Light (1933)

Further reading

  • "[a] most valuable record of his work and picture of his personality is the excellent obituary written by Professor Andrade of London University for the Royal Society of London." Statement made by Sir Kerr Grant
    Kerr Grant
    Professor Emeritus Sir Kerr Grant was an Australian physicist and a significant figure in higher education administration in South Australia in the first half of the twentieth century....

    , in:
  • "The Life and work of Sir William Bragg", the John Murtagh Macrossan Memorial Lecture for 1950, University of Queensland. Written and presented by Sir Kerr Grant, Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of Adelaide. Reproduced as pages 5–37 of Bragg Centenary, 1886-1986, University of Adelaide.
  • "William and Lawrence Bragg, Father and Son: The Most Extraordinary Collaboration in Science", John Jenkin, Oxford University Press 2008.

External links