Nobel Prize Award for Physics 1949 to 1952

About the Nobel Prize Award for Physics 1949 to 1952 including the scientists Yukawa and Bloch, their works, and history.


1949 Hideki Yukawa (1907- ), Japanese

Work: Theoretical prediction of a fourth subatomic particle, the meson

Nobel Laureate: A Tokyo native, Yukawa comes from a family of professors. His father taught geology, and his three brothers and two brothers-in-law also have earned their living on campus. His preference for theoretical physics over experimental science stems, according to Yukawa himself, from his clumsiness in the laboratory. Barely a year after he had begun teaching at Kyoto University, Yukawa began thinking about the possibility of a then unknown particle responsible for holding the atomic nucleus together. One night in 1934 he tossed and turned, unable to sleep, and then it hit him. He spent the next year confirming his assumptions and then announced his discovery to the world. The particle was supposed to be named, after him, the "yukon," but those responsible for scientific nomenclature feared that it would be confused with the northwest region of Canada. Thus the meson was born. A longtime supporter of international science, Yukawa once told a group of Japanese-Americans: "There are no national boundaries in the field of science, and we should all work together to bring out the truth--one truth." He was professor of physics at Kyoto until his retirement in 1970. Yukawa played college baseball, but now enjoys reading history, literature, and philosophy and writing haikus.

Nobel Lore: Yukawa donated part of his $30,000 prize money to the construction of the Theoretical Physics Institute at Kyoto.

1950 Cecil F. Powell (1903-1969), British

Work: Photographing particles in nuclear processes

1951 John D. Cockcroft (1897-1967), British

Ernest T. S. Walton (1903- ), Irish

Work: Pioneer efforts in transmuting atomic nuclei with artificially accelerated atomic particles

Nobel Laureate: Born into an old Lancashire textile family, Cockcroft, together with Walton, successfully penetrated a lithium atom by bombarding it with hydrogen protons in 1932-the first atom to be split mechanically. It is said that after the achievement, Cockcroft blurted out excitedly, "We've split the atom-and the Americans have been spending millions!" During W.W. II, Cockcroft directed the British radar defense. After the war he sat in on nuclear bomb discussions with President Truman and led Britain's nuclear program, although he was to boast, "I have not seen an atomic bomb explode and I have no intention of doing so." An easygoing man, he never let his scientific pursuits intrude into his tranquil family life. In 1959 he gave some advice to the young: "Never finish your education. I did not know much about physics when I started to do research. Go on with your reading and going to meetings and continue to work in your spare time on your own subject. It is the only way." In later life he predicted that our biggest problem eventually will be a severe shortage of food and water. He also criticized the space race for its political overtones.

1952 Felix Bloch (1905- ), American (b. Switzerland)

Edward M. Purcell (1912- ), American

Work: Development of a method to measure precisely the magnetic fields of atomic nuclei

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