Society: Arts and Science – October 5


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.
Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins CBE FRS died on this date in 2004. He was a New Zealand-born English physicist and molecular biologist, and Nobel Laureate whose research contributed to the scientific understanding of phosphorescence, isotope separation, optical microscopy and X-ray diffraction, and to the development of radar. He is best known for his work at King’s College, London on the structure of DNA which falls into three distinct phases. The first was in 1948–50 where his initial studies produced the first clear X-ray images of DNA which he presented at a conference in Naples in 1951 attended by James Watson. During the second phase of work (1951–52) he produced clear “B form” “X” shaped images from squid sperm which he sent to James Watson and Francis Crick causing Watson to write “Wilkins… has obtained extremely excellent X-ray diffraction photographs”(of DNA). Throughout this period Wilkins was consistent in his belief that DNA was helical even when Rosalind Franklin expressed strong views to the contrary. In 1953 Franklin instructed Raymond Gosling to give Wilkins, without condition, a high quality image of “B” form DNA which she had unexpectedly produced months earlier but had “put it aside” to concentrate on other work. Wilkins, having checked that he was free to personally use the photograph to confirm his earlier results, showed it to Watson without the consent of Rosalind Franklin. This image, along with the knowledge that Linus Pauling had published an incorrect structure of DNA, “mobilised” Watson to restart model building efforts with Crick. Important contributions and data from Wilkins, Franklin (obtained via Max Perutz) and colleagues in Cambridge enabled Watson and Crick to propose a double-helix model for DNA. The third and longest phase of Wilkins’ work on DNA took place from 1953 onwards. Here Wilkins led a major project at King’s College, London, to test, verify and make significant corrections to the DNA model proposed by Watson and Crick and to study the structure of RNA. Wilkins, Crick and Watson were awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, “for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material.”


Society: Arts and Science – December 15

Today is International Thanksgiving Day! A day to celebrate your life in a special way…

Swedish and Norwegian committees bestow Nobel Prizes in recognition of cultural or scientific advances. In 1895, the will of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel established the prizes.
Antoine Henri Becquerel was born on this day in 1852. He was a French physicist and the discoverer of radioactivity along with Marie Sklodowska-Curie and Pierre Curie,[1] for which all three won the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics.
Niels Ryberg Finsen was born on this day in 1860. He was a Faroese physician and scientist of Icelandic descent. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology in 1903 “in recognition of his contribution to the treatment of diseases, especially lupus vulgaris, with concentrated light radiation, whereby he has opened a new avenue for medical science.
Wolfgang Ernst Pauli died on this date in 1958. He was an Austrian-born Swiss theoretical physicist and one of the pioneers of quantum physics. In 1945, after having been nominated by Albert Einstein, Pauli received the 1945 Nobel Prize in Physics for his “decisive contribution through his discovery of a new law of Nature, the exclusion principle or Pauli principle.” The discovery involved spin theory, which is the basis of a theory of the structure of matter.
Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins CBE FRS was born on this date in 1916. He was a New Zealand-born English physicist and molecular biologist, and Nobel Laureate whose research contributed to the scientific understanding of phosphorescence, isotope separation, optical microscopy and X-ray diffraction, and to the development of radar. He is best known for his work at King’s College, London on the structure of DNA which falls into three distinct phases. The first was in 1948–50 where his initial studies produced the first clear X-ray images of DNA which he presented at a conference in Naples in 1951 attended by James Watson. During the second phase of work (1951–52) he produced clear “B form” “X” shaped images from squid sperm which he sent to James Watson and Francis Crick causing Watson to write “Wilkins… has obtained extremely excellent X-ray diffraction photographs”(of DNA). Throughout this period Wilkins was consistent in his belief that DNA was helical even when Rosalind Franklin expressed strong views to the contrary. In 1953 Franklin instructed Raymond Gosling to give Wilkins, without condition, a high-quality image of “B” form DNA which she had unexpectedly produced months earlier but had “put it aside” to concentrate on other work. Wilkins, having checked that he was free to personally use the photograph to confirm his earlier results, showed it to Watson without the consent of Rosalind Franklin. This image, along with the knowledge that Linus Pauling had published an incorrect structure of DNA, “mobilised” Watson to restart model building efforts with Crick. Important contributions and data from Wilkins, Franklin (obtained via Max Perutz) and colleagues in Cambridge enabled Watson and Crick to propose a double-helix model for DNA. The third and longest phase of Wilkins’ work on DNA took place from 1953 onwards. Here Wilkins led a major project at King’s College, London, to test, verify and make significant corrections to the DNA model proposed by Watson and Crick and to study the structure of RNA. Wilkins, Crick and Watson were awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, “for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material.”

Society: Arts and Science – October 19


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.
Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson, OM FRS died on this date in 1937. He was a New Zealand-born British physicist who became known as the father of nuclear physics. Sometmes described as the greatest experimentalist since Michael Faraday (1791–1867). In early work, he discovered the concept of radioactive half-life, proved that radioactivity involved the transmutation of one chemical element to another, and also differentiated and named alpha and beta radiation. This work was done at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. It is the basis for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry that he was awarded in 1908 “for his investigations into the disintegration of the elements, and the chemistry of radioactive substances”. Rutherford moved in 1907 to the Victoria University of Manchester (today University of Manchester) in the UK, where he and Thomas Royds proved that alpha radiation is helium ions. Rutherford performed his most famous work after he became a Nobel laureate. In 1911, although he could not prove that it was positive or negative, he theorized that atoms have their charge concentrated in a very small nucleus, and thereby pioneered the Rutherford model of the atom, through his discovery and interpretation of Rutherford scattering in his gold foil experiment. He is widely credited with first “splitting the atom” in 1917 in a nuclear reaction between nitrogen and alpha particles, in which he also discovered (and named) the proton. Rutherford became Director of the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University in 1919. Under his leadership the neutron was discovered by James Chadwick in 1932 and in the same year the first experiment to split the nucleus in a fully controlled manner, performed by students working under his direction, John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton. After his death in 1937, he was honoured by being interred with the greatest scientists of the United Kingdom, near Sir Isaac Newton’s tomb in Westminster Abbey. The chemical element rutherfordium (element 104) was named after him in 1997.


Society: Arts and Science – August 30


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.
Jacobus Henricus van ‘t Hoff, Jr. was born on this day in 1852. He was a Dutch physical and organic chemist and, in 1901, the first winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He is best known for his discoveries in chemical kinetics, chemical equilibrium, osmotic pressure, and stereochemistry. With such a wide range of work, Van ‘t Hoff’s helped found the discipline of physical chemistry.
Sir Joseph John “J. J.” Thomson, OM, FRS died on this date in 1940. He was a British physicist. In 1897 Thomson showed that cathode rays were composed of a previously unknown negatively charged particle, and thus he is credited with the discovery and identification of the electron; and, in a broader sense, with the discovery of the first subatomic particle. Thomson is also credited with finding the first evidence for isotopes of a stable (non-radioactive) element in 1913, as part of his exploration into the composition of canal rays (positive ions). He invented the mass spectrometer. Thomson was awarded the 1906 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of the electron and for his work on the conduction of electricity in gases.
Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson, OM FRS was born on this date in 1871. He was a New Zealand-born British physicist who became known as the father of nuclear physics. Sometmes described as the greatest experimentalist since Michael Faraday (1791–1867). In early work, he discovered the concept of radioactive half-life, proved that radioactivity involved the transmutation of one chemical element to another, and also differentiated and named alpha and beta radiation. This work was done at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. It is the basis for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry that he was awarded in 1908 “for his investigations into the disintegration of the elements, and the chemistry of radioactive substances”. Rutherford moved in 1907 to the Victoria University of Manchester (today University of Manchester) in the UK, where he and Thomas Royds proved that alpha radiation is helium ions. Rutherford performed his most famous work after he became a Nobel laureate. In 1911, although he could not prove that it was positive or negative, he theorized that atoms have their charge concentrated in a very small nucleus, and thereby pioneered the Rutherford model of the atom, through his discovery and interpretation of Rutherford scattering in his gold foil experiment. He is widely credited with first “splitting the atom” in 1917 in a nuclear reaction between nitrogen and alpha particles, in which he also discovered (and named) the proton. Rutherford became Director of the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University in 1919. Under his leadership the neutron was discovered by James Chadwick in 1932 and in the same year the first experiment to split the nucleus in a fully controlled manner, performed by students working under his direction, John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton. After his death in 1937, he was honoured by being interred with the greatest scientists of the United Kingdom, near Sir Isaac Newton’s tomb in Westminster Abbey. The chemical element rutherfordium (element 104) was named after him in 1997.
Wilhelm Carl Werner Otto Fritz Franz Wien died on this date in 1928. He was a German physicist who, in 1893, used theories about heat and electromagnetism to deduce Wien’s displacement law, which calculates the emission of a blackbody at any temperature from the emission at any one reference temperature. He also formulated an expression for the black-body radiation which is correct in the photon-gas limit. His arguments were based on the notion of adiabatic invariance, and were instrumental for the formulation of quantum mechanics. Wien received the 1911 Nobel Prize for his work on heat radiation.
Theodor (“The”) Svedberg was born on this date in 1884. He was a Swedish chemist and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1926, active at Uppsala University. Theodor Svedberg was born in Gavleborg, Sweden. He was the son of Augusta Alstermark and Elias Svedberg. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1905, his Master’s degree in 1907, and in 1908, he earned his Ph.D. Svedberg’s work with colloids supported the theories of Brownian motion put forward by Albert Einstein and the Polish geophysicist Marian Smoluchowski. During this work, he developed the technique of analytical ultracentrifugation, and demonstrated its utility in distinguishing pure proteins one from another. The unit svedberg (symbol S), a unit of time amounting to 10−13 s or 100 fs, is named after him, as well as the The Svedberg Laboratory in Uppsala. Svedberg’s candidacy for the Royal Society reads: “distinguished for his work in physical and colloid chemistry and the development of the ultracentrifuge.”
Edward Mills Purcell was born on this date in 1912. He was an American physicist who shared the 1952 Nobel Prize for Physics for his independent discovery (published 1946) of nuclear magnetic resonance in liquids and in solids. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) has become widely used to study the molecular structure of pure materials and the composition of mixtures.