Sir James Chadwick was an English physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1935 for his discovery of the neutron. Ironically, Chadwick did not intend to study physics for his undergraduate degree. There was a slight miscommunication that led to this, but the bigger question is, what did he want to study back then?
When James Chadwick was interviewing for the University of Manchester, he intended to study mathematics, but he enrolled in physics by mistake. He worked under Ernest Rutherford and earned his master’s degree in 1913.
Who was James Chadwick?
Sir James Chadwick was an English scientist who received the Nobel Laureate in Physics in 1935 for discovering the neutron in 1932. Chadwick was born in a small town in England on October 20, 1891. His father, Joseph, was a railway storekeeper. His mother, Anne, was a domestic worker. Chadwick got accepted into the elite Manchester Grammar School when he was 11 years old. Regrettably, his parents were too poor to afford the fees. He instead went to the Central Grammar School for Boys
Math and physics were his favorite subjects. By the age of 16, he was awarded a scholarship to Manchester’s Victoria University. He intended to take up mathematics but was offered a place in the physics department. Chadwick was shy to contradict his interviewer’s offer and he ended up enrolling anyway.
Ernest Rutherford was James Chadwick’s professor at the University of Manchester, where he began his academic career. He received his bachelor’s degree from this institution in 1911. And by 1913, he finished his master’s degree. Chadwick then chose to conduct studies in Berlin under Hans Geiger.
He planned to research beta radiation, but World War I came out soon after, and the German government imprisoned Chadwick for four years in the Ruhleben detention camp.
Chadwick discovered the neutron in 1932, and he is most recognized for it. Chadwick’s discoveries were crucial in discovering nuclear fission and, ultimately, the development of the atomic bomb. (Source: Famous Scientists)
How Did he Discover the Neutron?
Chadwick conducted an experiment with the use of Beryllium against alpha particles produced by Polonium’s natural radioactive disintegration in 1932. The radiation that resulted had a high penetration through a lead shield, which could not be explained by the particles available at the time.
Newer experiments have validated the result, which is particularly astounding in light of Meitner, Hahn, and Strassmann’s Christmas 1938 discovery of nuclear fission.
I remember the spring of 1941 to this day. I realized then that a nuclear bomb was not only possible, it was inevitable. And I had then to start taking sleeping pills. It was the only remedy, I’ve never stopped since then.James Chadwick
(Source: Famous Scientists)
What Did James Chadwick Do in the Manhattan Project?
The discovery of the neutron led to endless possibilities. Chadwick was appointed the head of the British team on the Manhattan Project during the Second World War. The UK and Canada supported America’s efforts in building the first nuclear bomb. For his achievements, he was knighted in the United Kingdom in 1945. (Source: Famous Scientists)