Clinton Davisson discovered the diffraction of electrons by crystalline bodies

Clinton Davisson

October 22, 1881, Bloomington, Illinois (United States) – February 1, 1958, Charlottesville, Virginia (United States)

He attended the Bloomington public schools and after graduating in 1902, the University of Chicago awarded him a scholarship for his proficiency in mathematics and physics.

In 1905, he is hired as a Physics instructor at Princeton University, where he conducts research with Owen Richardson at the same time.

In 1908, he managed to graduate from the University of Chicago despite his economic problems and, in 1911, he received his Ph.D. in Physics from Princeton. That same year he married Richardson's sister, Charlotte.

He begins to practice as an assistant professor at the Carnegie Institute of Technology and, in 1917, begins to conduct research with the Engineering Department of the Western Electric Company (later to become Bell Telephone Laboratories).

After the end of the war, he accepts a position at Western Electric after guaranteeing that he could reconcile his position with research, not as was the case at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. He remained in this position until he retired, for the first time, in 1946.

He was unable to give up research and accepted a research professorship at the University of Virginia until his second retirement in 1954.

In 1927, together with Lester Halbert Germer, he discovered the diffraction of electrons by crystalline bodies, which made it possible to experimentally confirm the theories of wave mechanics.

Clinton Davisson y Lester Germer

Diffraction is a very characteristic effect that occurs when a wave strikes an opening or grating. In the 19th century, this concept was well established for light and waves at fluid surfaces, but the Davisson-Germer experiment showed that electrons diffracted at the surface of a nickel crystal. In this way they confirmed de Broglie's hypothesis that the particles of matter have a wave nature, a central tenet of quantum mechanics, and achieved the first measurement of a wavelength for electrons.

In 1935, he received the Hughes Medal from the Royal Society of London, for "his research which led to the discovery of the physical existence of electron waves through continued investigations of the reflection of electrons from crystal planes of nickel and other materials".

In 1937, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with George Paget Thomson for his discovery of electron diffraction.

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