The rich man opens a new era of X-ray crystallography

1953 was a landmark year that marked a milestone in human history. This is because James Watson and Francis Crick uncovered the structure of DNA that contains the secret of life. Their great achievements were made possible by the strong support of William Lawrence Bragg, director of the Cavendish Institute at the University of Cambridge, UK, and his research on X-ray crystallography.


He was a genius who received the Nobel Prize in Physics with his father William Henry Bragg at the age of 25. The laws on X-ray diffraction studied by these father and sons contributed greatly to the development of X-ray crystallography in the future, and became a historical reason for both father and son to be selected as Nobel Prize winners at the same time.


William Henry Bragg wins Nobel Prize for beautiful collaboration with his son

William Henry Bragg, who achieved the feat of winning a Nobel Prize at the same time through a beautiful collaboration with his son.
William Henry Bragg, who achieved the feat of winning a Nobel Prize at the same time through a beautiful collaboration with his son.

Since Wilhelm Roentgen's discovery of X-rays in 1895, efforts to uncover its essential properties have continued among scientists. Medical scientists looked inside the body through X-rays, and physicists looked inside the matter with X-rays and tried to find out the structure.


German physicist Max Theodor Felix von Laue discovered that transmitting X-rays through crystals scatters them and creates diffraction patterns. This means that X-rays are electromagnetic waves like light. Von Lauer discovered the phenomenon of X-ray diffraction of crystals and proved that waves are the essence of X-rays.


Von Laue won the 1914 Nobel Prize in Physics for this work. Today, von Lauer's discovery allows us to determine the position of atoms in crystals, and from this, we gain more knowledge. As such, von Laue's discovery was a great achievement. However, his research also had limitations. This is because calculating the crystal structure using von Lauer's formula had to go through a very complex process.


These rich men discovered Bragg's Law, a simple way to deal with the X-ray scattering caused by crystals.
These rich men discovered Bragg's Law, a simple way to deal with the X-ray scattering caused by crystals.

At this time, it was William Lawrence Bragg, a young physicist who was very interested in the phenomenon of X-ray diffraction revealed by von Lauer. He found a way to supplement Laue's explanation with his own experiment. And mathematically proved the results of the experiment. It happened when he was only a college student.


However, in order to finally determine the crystal structure, a device capable of accurately measuring the wavelength of X-rays was needed. The son proposes a study to his father, a prominent physicist. The father and son worked together to solve the problem. Lawrence Bragg's father, Henry Bragg, created an X-ray spectrometer capable of producing monochromatic light of the desired intensity, and these new spectrometers together accomplish a variety of methods to examine the crystal structure.


William Lawrence Bragg, son of Nobel Prize-winning genius at 25


For this, they received the Nobel Prize in Physics for their servics in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays in 1915. The Nobel Prize committee admired that the methods that these rich men devised to examine the crystal structure have opened up a new world of physics.

William Lawrence Bragg, a genius physicist who received the Nobel Prize in Physics at age 25.
William Lawrence Bragg, a genius physicist who received the Nobel Prize in Physics at age 25.

The study of crystal structure analysis using X-rays has had a profound effect on the current physics. This is because through their research, it is possible to know the structure of a simple metal crystal to a complex protein. At this time, William Lawrence Bragg was only 25 years old. It was a historic moment when the youngest Nobel Prize winner was born. They are the only ones that both father and son received the Nobel Prize in the same year.


But the amazing achievements of Lawrence Bragg at a young age were just the beginning. In 1938, when he turned 48, he was the director of the Cavendish Institute at the University of Cambridge, England, and at the age of 64, along with his father, he worked as the director of the National Royal Institute in London, England, and did not stop studying until the age of 75. He formed a research team in his old age with a research enthusiasm equal to his outstanding genius, succeeding in revealing the structure of complex organic crystals, and eventually established himself as a strong supporter in discovering the structure of DNA, the secret of life.


William Lawrence Bragg, who was not proud of his achievements at a young age, but gave back his genius to society, and his father William Henry Bragg, who supported his son and respected him as a research partner, and achieved great achievements together. Their genius and enthusiasm have borne fruit as the driving force behind the advancement of human science history.

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