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Sir George Paget Thomson, FRS (3 May 189210 September 1975) was an English physicist and Nobel laureate in physics recognised for his discovery with Clinton Davisson of the wave properties of the electron by electron diffraction.

Biography

Thomson was born in Cambridgemarker, Englandmarker, the son of physicist and Nobel laureate J. J. Thomson and Rose Elisabeth Paget, the daughter of the professor of medicine at the University of Cambridgemarker. Thomson went to The Perse Schoolmarker, Cambridge before going onto read mathematics and physics at Trinity College, Cambridgemarker, until the outbreak of World War I in 1914, when he was commissioned into the Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment. After brief service in Francemarker, he worked on aerodynamics at Farnboroughmarker and elsewhere. He resigned his commission as a Captain in 1920.

In 1924, Thomson married Kathleen Buchanan Smith, daughter of the Very Rev. Sir George Adam Smith. They had four children, two sons and two daughters. Kathleen died in 1941.

Career

After briefly serving in the First World War Thomson became a Fellow at Cambridge and then moved to the University of Aberdeen. George Thomson was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1937 for his work in Aberdeen in discovering the wave-like properties of the electron. The prize was shared with Clinton Joseph Davisson who had made the same discovery independently. Whereas his father had seen the electron as a particle (and won his Nobel Prize in the process), Thomson demonstrated that it could be diffracted like a wave, a discovery proving the principle of wave-particle duality which had first been posited by Louis-Victor de Broglie in the 1920s as what is often dubbed the de Broglie hypothesis.

In 1930 he was appointed Professor at Imperial Collegemarker. In the late 1930s and during the Second World War Thomson specialised in nuclear physics, concentrating on practical military applications. In particular Thomson was the chairman of the crucial MAUD Committee in 1940-1941 that concluded that an atomic bomb was feasible. In later life he continued this work on nuclear energy but also wrote works on aerodynamics and the value of science in society.

Thomson stayed at Imperial College until 1952, when he became Master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridgemarker. In 1964, the college honoured his tenure with the George Thomson Building, an outstanding work of modernist architecture on the college's Leckhamptonmarker campus.

Thomson was knighted in 1943.

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