George Paget Thomson, Nobel Prize for his studies on the diffraction of electrons in crystals and demonstration of their wave properties

George Paget Thomson

May 3, 1892, in Cambridge (UK) – September 10, 1975, in Cambridge (UK)

The only son of the well-known Sir Joseph John Thomson, discoverer of the electron, he followed in his father's footsteps with an outstanding professional career in the field of science.

He studied and graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge University.

After the war, he joined the Cavendish Laboratory directed by his father, with whom he collaborated on the study of the behavior of positive particles in electrical discharges in gases.

Between 1922 he was a professor at the University of Aberdeen, where he carried out experiments that revealed the diffraction of an electron beam when passing through a crystalline substance, thus confirming Louis de Broglie's theories about wave-particle duality.

In this way, an electron, although we conceive it as a material entity, can behave like a wave, and light, conceived as an immaterial wave, can behave like corpuscles (photons). This new theoretical conception about the nature of radiation allowed the confirmation of previous Einstein hypotheses and explained the Compton effect (named after its discoverer, Arthur Compton), which was lacking in the wave theory of light.

In 1930, he obtained a chair in physics at the Imperial College of Science and Technology, University of London, where he remained until 1952.

In 1937, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with the American physicist Clinton J. Davisson, for his work related to the diffraction of electrons in crystals and the demonstration of their wave properties.

Studies that also earned him the Hughes Medal of the Royal Society in 1939.

In the late 1930s and during World War II, he specialized in nuclear physics, although he also became interested in aerodynamics and the value of science in society.

In 1943, he was awarded the title of Sir and in 1946 he served as advisor to the British delegation to the United Nations Security Council and the Atomic Energy Commission.

Between 1952 and 1962, he was Chancellor of Corpus Christi College at the University of Cambridge.

George Paget Thomson_Libro

His works include The Atom (The Atom, 1930); Conduction of Electricity through gases (Conduction of Electricity Through Gases, 1928-1933, 2 vols.), In collaboration with his father; Wave mechanics of the Free Electron (Wave Mechanics of the Free Electron, 1930); Theory and Practice of Electron Diffraction (Theory and Practice of Electron Diffraction, 1939), with W. Cochrane; J. J. Thomson and the Cavendish Laboratory (J. J. Thomson and the Cavendish Laboratory, 1964).

Access to the best


on Energy and Environment
Go to resources