September 2, 1877 in Eastbourne (England) – September 22, 1956 in Brighton (England)
The son of a London merchant, he began his primary education at Eastbourne College, Sussex (England) and later studied at the University College of Wales and at Merton College of the University of Oxford. He worked as a researcher at Oxford from 1898 to 1900.
Between 1900 and 1902 he explained chemistry at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec (Canada), where he worked with Ernest Rutherford on radioactivity, concluding that it was a phenomenon that related atomic disintegration to the formation of new types of matter. and that produced alpha, beta and gamma radiation. Here he also began his research on radium emanations.
In 1903, he left Canada and began a collaboration with William Ramsay at University College London, where he continued his studies on radium emanations. Soddy and Ramsay were able to show, by spectroscopic means, that helium was produced in the decay of radium.
From 1904 to 1914, he was a professor at the University of Glasgow, where he carried out a series of chemical experiments related to radioactive materials, including the transformation of uranium into radium. It was also there that, in 1913, he showed that radioactive elements can have more than one atomic weight, even though their chemical properties are identical; this led him to the concept of the isotope.
Soddy later showed that nonradioactive chemical elements can also have multiple isotopes and developed the well-known Law of Displacement, which posits that an atom can move down two places in the Periodic Table by its atomic weight by emitting alpha radiation and one place up by emitting alpha radiation. beta radiation. This was a fundamental step in understanding the relationship between the families of radioactive elements and allowed the discovery of the radioactive element proactinium, which was carried out independently by Soddy in England and Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner in Austria.
From 1914 to 1919 he was a professor at the University of Aberdeen, where he carried out research related to World War I, and then moved to the University of Oxford, where he remained until 1936 as Lee Professor of Chemistry and organized the laboratory.
In 1921, he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his contributions to the knowledge of the chemistry of radioactive substances and for his investigations into the nature of isotopes.
In 1936, Soddy rediscovered Descartes' Circles Theorem and published it as a poem, "The Kiss Precise", which is cited as one of the Problems of Apollonius. The kissing circles in this problem are sometimes known as Soddy circles.
Soddy received multiple awards and recognitions and published: Radioactivity (1904), The Interpretation of Radium (1909), The Chemistry of Radioactive Elements (1912-1914), Matter and Energy (1912), Science and Life (1920), The Interpretation of the Atom (1932), The History of Atomic Energy (1949), and Atomic Transmutation (1953).
After the death of his wife, Winifred Beilby in 1937, he did not resume his work on radioactivity and his interests were divided between economic and social issues, various political theories, and problem solving in the fields of mathematics and science. quantum mechanics.