Sir George Paget Thomson (1892-1975)

English physicist. Born on 3 May 1892 in Cambridge. Son of Sir Joseph John Thomson. Thomson graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, with a degree in mathematics and physics in 1913. He then spent a year with his father’s research team, before joining the World War I effort, serving in the infantry and the Royal Air Force. After the war he spent three years at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, as a fellow and lecturer, and then eight years as Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen.

In 1927 Thomson demonstrated the process of electron diffraction, showing that electrons behave as waves, for which he shared the 1937 Nobel Prize for Physics with Clinton Davisson, who made the same independent discovery.

During World War II Thomson headed the British Committee on Atomic Energy and, after a brief spell as Scientific Liaison Officer in Ottawa working with the US atomic bomb effort, he became the Scientific Advisor to the Air Ministry. In 1943 he was knighted.

After the war he returned to Imperial College, London, where he had been appointed Professor of Physics in 1930. He remained there until 1952, during which time he undertook theoretical research into thermonuclear fusion, and then returned to Corpus Christi College as Master. Thomson’s works include The Wave Mechanics of Free Electrons (1930), The Atom and the Forseeable Future (1955) and The Inspiration of Science (1961). He died in Cambridge on 10 September 1975.