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James Chadwick

Who Discovered the Neutron?

A neutron is a subatomic particle that possesses almost the same mass as a proton but does not have an electric charge. Developments in particle physics tell us that neither the proton nor neutron are truly elementary particles. They contain quarks that are governed by a strong force. But did you know who first discovered the neutron?

The neutron was discovered by the English physicist James Chadwick in 1932. Coincidentally, Chadwick was the student of Ernest Rutherford who discovered the proton, who was, in turn, the student of Joseph John Thompson who discovered the electron.

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 James Chadwick 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)

Was James Chadwick the Inspiration for the Character Jimmy Neutron?

The show, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron was first aired in July 2002. It was originally created by Nickelodeon. It follows the story of Jimmy, a fifth-grade genius who was always inventing gadgets to solve problems. The inspiration for the character’s name is said to be based on James Chadwick because of his discovery of the neutron. (Source: Famous Scientists)

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