William Henry Bragg (2 July 1862 – 12 March 1942) was a British physicist and mathematician who made significant contributions to the fields of X-ray crystallography and spectroscopy.

Life and Career

He was born on 2 July 1862, in Westward, Cumberland, England. He won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge University, and started studying there in 1881. In 1885, he graduated with first-class honors in the mathematical tripos under the tutelage of Dr. E. J. Routh.

After completing his studies, he worked as a lecturer at the University of Adelaide in Australia.

Gradually, he became interested in physics, especially electromagnetism. He was greatly interested in new discovery of Wilhelm Röntgen, namely X-Rays. He developed his interest in the field through his friendship with Ernest Rutherford.

In 1896, he demonstrated that X-rays could reveal structures that were otherwise invisible.

He published his papers on Alpha Rays and Radium Ionization Curves in 1904.

His most notable contribution to science was his development of X-ray crystallography, a technique for determining the arrangement of atoms in crystals. In 1912, Bragg and his son Lawrence used X-ray diffraction to determine the crystal structure of sodium chloride (table salt), which marked the beginning of a new era in the study of the structure of matter.

Bragg also made significant contributions to the study of spectroscopy, particularly the analysis of the spectra of gases. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1907 and was knighted in 1920 for his contributions to science.

He was also active in sports while he was in Australia. In addition to golf and chess, he played lacrosse and lawn tennis.

Among other things, he helped establish the Adelaide University Lacrosse Club and the North Adelaide Lacrosse Club.

He returned to England in 1908 after 23 years in Australia. He became the Cavendish Professor of Physics at Leeds the next year.

He died on 12 March 1942, in London, England, UK.


He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915, along with his son Lawrence Bragg, for their work on X-ray crystallography.

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