Chadwick, Sir James


Chadwick, Sir James (1891-1974), British physicist and Nobel laureate, who is best known for his discovery in 1932 of one of the fundamental particles of matter, the neutron, a discovery that led directly to nuclear fission and the atomic bomb. He was born in Manchester and educated there at Victoria University. In 1909 he began working under the British physicist Lord Ernest Rutherford. At the end of World War I he went to the University of Cambridge with Rutherford, with whom he continued a fruitful collaboration until 1935. In that year Chadwick became professor at the University of Liverpool. From 1948 to 1958 he was master, and from 1959 a fellow, of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.


Chadwick was one of the first in Britain to stress the possibility of the development of an atomic bomb and was the chief scientist associated with the British atomic bomb effort. He spent much of his time from 1943 to 1945 in the United States, principally at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico. A fellow of the Royal Society, Chadwick received the 1935 Nobel Prize in physics and was knighted in 1945.


Microsoft ® Encarta ® Reference Library 2003. © 1993-2002 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.





Chadwick, Sir James


b. Oct. 20, 1891, Manchester, Eng.

d. July 24, 1974, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire



English physicist who received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1935 for the discovery of the neutron.


Educated at the universities of Manchester and Cambridge, Chadwick also studied under Hans Geiger at the Technische Hochschule, Berlin. From 1923 he worked with Ernest Rutherford in the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, where they studied the transmutation of elements by bombarding them with alpha particles and investigated the nature of the atomic nucleus, identifying the proton, the nucleus of the hydrogen atom, as a constituent of the nuclei of other atoms.


In 1932 Chadwick observed that beryllium, when exposed to bombardment by alpha particles, released an unknown radiation that in turn ejected protons from the nuclei of various substances. Chadwick interpreted this radiation as being composed of particles of mass approximately equal to that of the proton, but without electrical charge--neutrons.


This discovery provided a new tool for inducing atomic disintegration, since neutrons, being electrically uncharged, could penetrate undeflected into the atomic nucleus. Chadwick was knighted in 1945.







Ernest Rutherford British physicist Ernest Rutherford, winner of the 1908 Nobel Prize in chemistry, pioneered the field of nuclear physics with his research and development of the nuclear theory of atomic structure. Rutherford stated that an atom consists largely of empty space, with an electrically positive nucleus in the center and electrically negative electrons orbiting the nucleus. By bombarding nitrogen gas with alpha particles (nuclear particles emitted through radioactivity), Rutherford engineered the transformation of an atom of nitrogen into both an atom of oxygen and an atom of hydrogen. This experiment was an early stimulus to the development of nuclear energy, a form of energy in which nuclear transformation and disintegration release extraordinary power.Archive Photos 



Following his discovery of the proton in 1919, British physicist Ernest Rutherford suggested that a third particle, in addition to the proton and the electron, existed inside the atom. In 1930 the German physicists Walther Bothe and Herbert Becker bombarded beryllium with alpha particles and produced a radiation that passed through ten centimeters of lead. In 1932 French physicists Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie found that this radiation could knock protons out of hydrogen atoms. In the same year, British physicist James Chadwick measured the energy of the protons emerging from the hydrogen atoms and showed that they had been knocked out by a particle of about the same mass, but electrically neutral. This new particle was therefore named the neutron.



Sir James Chadwick British physicist Sir James Chadwick won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1935. Chadwick’s discovery of the neutron led to the development of nuclear fission and the atomic bomb The Nobel Foundation 



By studying the physics of the neutron, scientists can better understand what happens inside neutron stars, stars that are made up entirely of neutrons. Neutron stars form when a star contains so much matter that the gravitational attraction between all of its atoms is powerful enough to crush them. The outer electrons are forced into the nucleus and combine with protons, thus creating a neutron star. One cubic centimeter of a neutron star weighs 100 million tons.



further reading

These sources provide additional information on Neutron.



Knowledge of neutron physics also aids in the design of nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons, and it furthers the study of molecular structure. Nuclear reactions release a tremendous amount of energy. This energy can be used in nuclear weapons or, when the reactions are carefully controlled in nuclear reactors, as a source of electricity (See also Nuclear Energy: Nuclear Power Reactors). Physics researchers use beams of neutrons to study the inner structure of materials. They create the neutron beams from reactors, or by accelerating protons with magnetic fields in a particle accelerator, then slamming these protons into large nuclei such as uranium. These neutron beams can be directed at a sample material. When the neutrons pass through the sample, they behave like waves traveling around barriers and their paths bend to form a pattern called a diffraction pattern. This pattern reveals information about the internal structure of the sample.




Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003. © 1993-2002 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.