Society: Arts and Science – October 20


The Nobel Prize is bestowed annually in categories as selected by Swedish and Norwegian committees in recognition of cultural or scientific advances. The 1895 will of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel established the prizes.
Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac OM FRS died on this date in 1984. He was an English theoretical physicist who made fundamental contributions to the early development of both quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics. He was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, a member of the Center for Theoretical Studies, University of Miami, and spent the last decade of his life at Florida State University. Among other discoveries, he formulated the Dirac equation, which describes the behaviour of fermions and predicted the existence of antimatter. Dirac shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1933 with Erwin Schrödinger, “for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory”. He also did work that forms the basis of modern attempts to reconcile general relativity with quantum mechanics. He was regarded by his friends and colleagues as unusual in character. Albert Einstein said of him, “This balancing on the dizzying path between genius and madness is awful”.[4 His mathematical brilliance, however, means he is regarded as one of the most significant physicists of the 20th century.
Arthur Henderson PC died on this date in 1935. He was a British iron moulder and Labour politician. He was the first Labour cabinet minister, the 1934 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and served three terms as the Leader of the Labour Party. He was popular among his colleagues, who called him “Uncle Arthur” in acknowledgement of his integrity, devotion to the cause and unperturbability. He was a transition figure whose policies were closer to the Liberal Party and the trade unions rejected his emphasis on arbitration and conciliation and thwarted his goal of unifying the Labour Party and the trades unions.
Sir James Chadwick, CH, FRS was born on this date in 1891. He 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. Chadwick graduated from the Victoria University of Manchester in 1911, 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 elected to study beta radiation under Hans Geiger in Berlin. Using Geiger’s recently developed Geiger counter, Chadwick was able to demonstrate that beta radiation produced a continuous spectrum, and not discrete lines as had been thought. Still in Germany when the First World War broke out in Europe, he spent the next four years in the Ruhleben internment camp. 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, attracting students like John Cockcroft, Norman Feather, and Mark Oliphant. Chadwick pursued a line of research that led to his discovery of the neutron in 1932, and went on to measure 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 antiquated 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 advisor 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.
Carl Ferdinand Cori, ForMemRS died on this date in 1984. He was a Czech biochemist and pharmacologist born in Prague (then in Austria-Hungary, now Czech Republic) who, together with his wife Gerty Cori and Argentine physiologist Bernardo Houssay, received a Nobel Prize in 1947 for their discovery of how glycogen (animal starch) – a derivative of glucose – is broken down and resynthesized in the body, for use as a store and source of energy. In 2004 both were designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark in recognition of their work that elucidated carbohydrate metabolism.