, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I hate to admit but I’m not the one to talk to about scientific breakthroughs. But now there is this scholar at the College that makes the whole thing look exciting. He’s just arrived a couple of years ago and scientific life at Leeds has been as much stirred by his work as Sir Michael [Sadler]‘s more recent arrival as Vice Chancellor. I think this institution has a bright future if it continues to attract great men like this.

So this new chap called Norman Campbell and our bespectacled professor William Bragg at the Physics department are apparently the bee’s knees when it comes to modern physics. Bragg has already made quite a name for himself as a researcher in Australia, which he left three years ago for our significantly less sunny land. He took up his appointment as Cavendish Professor and, with the help of a special grant made to him by the Council, immediately began to equip a research laboratory. He recruited research assistants from Cambridge and one even came from all the way from Norway (excuse the pun, it’s not very good). Then, I think two years ago, Norman Campbell arrived from Trinity College, Cambridge in an honorary capacity. The professor’s young son, also William, is interested in moving up from Cambridge to work here as well.

Now this year, they developed something called the X-ray spectrometer which apparently enables scientists to test out and validate theories about the way in which atoms are arranged in crystals. Ernest Rutherford, who is already a Nobel Prize winner is working in Manchester and they say that there he’s achieved even greater results than the work he received the Nobel Prize for. I think Professor Bragg will be the next famous English Nobel Prize winner. Besides his obvious diligence and theoretical insight, he is very much engaged in teaching in his department and stimulate research in other parts of the university and even outside campus. I’ve been to one of his lectures about two or even three years ago at the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, where he talked about Radioactivity and Radium, which attracted a considerable interest back then, and received a very favourable review in the Yorkshire Post too. He often travels to London because he has some office in the Royal Society and in this present academic year he will be adding the position of Pro-Vice-Chancellor to his service too!

His influence is stronger by the day in other departments: in the past few years, earmarked Treasury grants have been deployed in chemistry, biology, botany and geology and applied sciences. I know funding is a constant struggle, even though it seems that it’s good investment. If the university is able to provide Bragg and the likes of him with the equipment and assistance they need, the impact on the university’s reputation and authority will be enormous. Just imagine if he does get the Nobel Prize like Rutherford! I sometimes have an irrational desire to nudge him to get on with it and make us great already, when I see him rushing to class from his office. Hahaha!

‘College’ is surely a slip of the tongue, Lavender! The College became a University in 1904….Also, FYI: Rutherford is not strictly English, as he was born in New Zealand. His father, James, had emigrated to New Zealand from Perth, Scotland, “to raise a little flax and a lot of children”. Ernest was born at Spring Grove (now Brightwater), near Nelson, New Zealand.

According to Wikipedia: Sir William Henry Bragg OM, KBE, PRS[1] (2 July 1862 – 10 March 1942) was a British physicist, chemist, mathematician and active sportsman who uniquely[2] shared a Nobel Prize with his son William Lawrence Bragg – the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics: “For their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-ray”.[3] This is still a unique accomplishment, because no other parent-child combination has yet shared a Nobel Prize (in any field). In several cases, a parent has won a Nobel Prize, and then years later, the child has won the Nobel Prize for separate research. An example of this is with Marie Curie and her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie, who are the only mother-daughter pair. Several father-son pairs have won two separate Nobel Prizes.

The coveted prize: Alfred Nobel, the Swede who invented dynamite, established in his will in 1896 awards for achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, peace and literature. The economics prize was set up by Sweden’s central bank in 1968. On Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death, the laureates will receive 8 million kronor ($1.2 million), a gold medal and a diploma at a ceremony in Stockholm. The prize used to be worth 10 million kronor ($1.4 million), but was downsized this year because of the financial crisis. 2012 Nobel prize winners were announced last week.

Other sources used in this post:

John Jenkin, “William and Lawrence Bragg, Father and Son: The Most Extraordinary Collaboration in Science”, Oxford University Press, 2008.

“Studies in the History of a University 1874-1974: To Commemorate the Centenary of the University of Leeds”, ed. by P. H. J. H. Gosden and A. J. Taylor, Arnold and Son, Leeds, 1975.