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James Chadwick
James Chadwick.jpg
Sir James Chadwick c. 1945
James Chadwick

(1891-10-20)October 20, 1891
Died 24 July 1974(1974-07-24) (aged 82)
Nationality British
Citizenship United Kingdom
Alma mater University of Manchester
University of Cambridge
Occupation physicist
Known for Discovery of the neutron
Title Sir
Awards Nobel Prize in Physics, 1935

Sir James Chadwick, CH, FRS (20 October 1891 – 24 July 1974) was an English physicist who was awarded the 1935 Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of the neutron in 1932. In 1941, he wrote the final draft of the MAUD Report, which inspired the U.S. government to begin serious atomic bomb research efforts. He was the head of the British team that worked on the Manhattan Project during the Second World War. He was knighted in England in 1945 for his achievements in physics.

Early life

James Chadwick was born in Bollington, Cheshire, England. He went to Manchester High School, and attended the University of Manchester where he studied under Ernest Rutherford (known as the "father of nuclear physics"). At Manchester, he continued to study under Rutherford until he was awarded his MSc in 1913. The same year, Chadwick was awarded an 1851 Research Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. He also attended the Cambridge.

In 1913, Chadwick went to Berlin in Germany to work with the scientist Hans Geiger. He also worked with Ernest Rutherford. He was still in Germany when World War I broke out and he was interned in Ruhleben P.O.W. Camp just outside Berlin. In the camp, which had more than 5,000 detainees (prisoners of war) had been a horse racetrack. There were stables, each with 27 horse boxes. The detainees lived in these boxes. The detainees were allowed to do things to keep themselves busy. Chadwick worked with a young scientist called Charles Ellis. Together they set up a laboratory in the stables where they worked on the ionisation of phosphorus and also on the photochemical reaction of carbon monoxide and chlorine.

After the war, Chadwick followed Rutherford to the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, where Chadwick earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree under Rutherford's supervision from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, in June 1921. He was Rutherford's assistant director of research at the Cavendish Laboratory for over a decade at a time when it was one of the world's foremost centres for the study of physics.

Chadwick followed his discovery of the neutron by measuring its mass. He anticipated that neutrons would become a major weapon in the fight against cancer. Chadwick left the Cavendish Laboratory in 1935 to become a professor of physics at the University of Liverpool, where he overhauled an old laboratory and, by installing a cyclotron, made it an important centre for the study of nuclear physics.

During the Second World War, Chadwick carried out research as part of the Tube Alloys project to build an atomic bomb, while his Liverpool lab and environs were harassed by Luftwaffe bombing. When the Quebec Agreement merged his project with the American Manhattan Project, he became part of the British Mission, and worked at the Los Alamos Laboratory and in Washington, D.C.

He surprised everyone by earning the almost-complete trust of project director Leslie R. Groves, Jr. For his efforts, Chadwick received a knighthood in the New Year Honours on 1 January 1945. In July 1945, he viewed the Trinity nuclear test. After this, he served as the British scientific adviser to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission. Uncomfortable with the trend toward Big Science, Chadwick became the Master of Gonville and Caius College in 1948. He retired in 1959. He died in Cambridge on 24 July 1974.

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