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George Paget Thomson

George Paget Thomson (May 3, 1892 – September 10, 1975), British physicist and son of Nobel Prize winning physicist J. J. Thomson.

Thomson read mathematics and physics at Trinity College, Cambridge, until the outbreak of World War I in 1914, when he joined the Queen's Regiment of Infantry. After a brief service in France, he worked on aerodynamics at Farnborough and elsewhere.

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.

After serving in the first world war Thomson followed in his father's footsteps working first at Cambridge and then Aberdeen and was himself jointly (with Clinton Joseph Davisson) awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1937 for his work in discovering the wave-like properties of the electron. Where 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 twenties as what is often dubbed the de Broglie hypothesis.

In 1930 he was appointed Professor at Imperial College London. 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, Cambridge. In 1964, the college honoured his tenure with the George Thomson Building, an outstanding work of modernist architecture on the college's Leckhampton campus.


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