George Paget Thomson

  • From:

    Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge │ Cambridge, England

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  • Citation:

    For diffraction of electrons by thin films.

Sir George Paget Thomson was born in 1892 in Cambridge, England, the son of Sir J. J. Thomson who was primarily responsible for the discovery of the electron. Thomson served as an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge, studying mathematics followed by physics, and had done a year's research under his father when World War I began. He was a soldier and a researcher in the war, and following the war, Thomson spent three years as Fellow and Lecturer at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and continued his research on physics.

He spent eight years as a professor of physics at the University of Aberdeen. There he carried out experiments on the behavior of electrons traveling through very thin films of metals, which showed that electrons behave as waves in spite of being particles. For this work, he later shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with C.J. Davisson of the Bell Telephone Laboratories, who had arrived at the same conclusions by a different kind of experiment. The process of electron diffraction which these experiments established to be possible has been widely used in the investigation of the surfaces of solids.

In 1930, Thomson became professor of physics at the Imperial College of Science in London. There he concentrated on studies of the neutron and nuclear fusion. He was knighted in 1943 and nine years later became master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, from which he retired in 1962.

Information as of 1932