13 October 2003 - Death of Bertram Brockhouse, Nobel Prize in Physics for his contribution to the development of neutron scattering techniques

Bertram Neville Brockhouse was born in Lethbridge, Canada, on 15 July 1918. He studied physics and mathematics at the University of British Columbia where he graduated in 1947 and moved to the University of Toronto where he obtained his PhD in 1950.

Brockhouse subsequently worked at the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratory in Ontario, Canada, where he remained for 12 years. There he developed neutron scattering techniques to study the structure and properties of materials. Brockhouse studied a wide variety of materials, including metals, semiconductors, and crystals.

His work at the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratory won awards several decades later. In 1994, Brockhouse received the Nobel Prize in Physics, shared with American Clifford Glenwood Shull, for "his contribution to the development of neutron scattering techniques for condensed matter studies". His experiments, begun in the 1940s, allowed him to develop an analysis technique based on the use of neutrons that collide with the atoms of the sample being analyzed and, depending on how they act, determine the structure of that matter; in other words, they make it possible to take precise X-rays of matter and learn about its interior. These techniques have been applied to study new ceramic superconductors, catalysts for car exhausts, or the structure of viruses.

In 1962, Brockhouse left Chalk River to take up a position as Professor of Physics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, where he remained until his retirement in 1984. In addition, at MacMaster, he began a research program based on his findings in the field of neutron scattering.

During the 1970s, Brockhouse redirected his interest to the philosophy of physics, energy supply, economics, and ethics. He gave up neutron scattering altogether in 1979.

Brockhouse died of heart failure in Hamilton, Ontario, on 13 October 2003, at the age of 85.

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