Nobel Prize Award for Physics 1904 to 1911

About the Nobel Prize Award for Physics 1904 to 1911 including the scientists Thomson and Marconi, their works, and history.


1904 John W. Strutt, Lord Rayleigh (1842-1919), British

Work: The discovery of argon and the study of other gases

1905 Philipp E. A. Lenard (1862-1947), German (b. Hungary)

Work: Experiments with cathode rays

1906 Joseph J. Thomson (1856-1940), British

Work: Research into the electrical conduction of gases

Nobel Laureate: Born near Manchester, England, Thomson took a physics degree from Trinity College, Cambridge, and joined the faculty there in 1884. A decade later he began the experiments into the electrical properties of gases which would earn him the Nobel Prize. Using cathode rays, he also demonstrated that present in all matter are negatively charged particles, which he called "corpuscles" but which subsequently were named electrons. He proved that electrons were even smaller than atoms, and determined the mass of each one to be about 1/1,000 of a hydrogen atom, the smallest known atom. This ratio proved only slightly off the actual figure known today. Not content with all this, Thomson went on to learn that two different types of neon existed; they looked the same, but one was slightly heavier than the other. In this way he formulated the theory of isotopes, which eventually formed a significant part of atomic theory. He wrote extensively and gained knighthood in 1908. Upon his death in London, he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

1907 Albert A. Michelson (1852-1931), American (b. Germany)

Work: Development of precision optical instruments and his use of them in spectroscopic and meteorological investigations

1908 Gabriel Lippmann (1845-1921), French (b. Luxembourg)

Work: Development of color photography

1909 Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937), Italian

Karl F. Braun (1850-1918), German

Work: Development of the wireless telegraph

Nobel Laureate: Inspired to experimental science by a biography of Benjamin Franklin, young Marconi pieced together countless contraptions under the disapproving eye of his hard-boiled father. His Irish-born mother was more tolerant of the boy's tinkering, however. At 16 he began conducting his wireless experiments in a room used to store silkworm trays on the top floor of his father's house in Bologna. After failing to interest his native Italy in his invention, he took his business to England, where he prospered. Less than a year after winning the Nobel Prize, he lost his right eye in an auto accident in Italy. In 1927 he left his Irish wife of 22 years and married Cristina Bezzi-Scali. Soon thereafter he suffered a heart attack, which was to weaken him throughout his last decade.

Nobel Lore: Many were surprised that Marconi was to share the prize with an unknown like Braun, who had done some research on the wireless in Strasbourg, but nothing compared to Marconi's work. Braun himself was so stunned that he apologized to Marconi at the awards ceremony for sharing the spotlight and assured the Italian that, if it were up to him, Marconi alone would receive the prize. Marconi privately agreed but graciously changed the subject.

1910 Johannes D. van der Waals (1837-1923), Dutch

Work: Equations relating gases and fluids

1911 Wilhelm Wien (1864-1928), German

Work: Discovery of laws governing heat radiation

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