Bertram Brockhouse Biography

Bertram Brockhouse, a Canadian physicist, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1994 for his groundbreaking research and development of the neutron-scattering technique. His interest in physics began during high school and continued to grow as he pursued higher education at the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto. Brockhouse’s most significant contributions came in the field of neutron-scattering techniques, particularly his development of inelastic neutron scattering. This technique involved measuring the relative energies of scattered neutrons to gather additional data about a material’s atomic structure. He utilized this technique to study phonons and was one of the first to measure the phonon dispersion curve of a solid. Additionally, Brockhouse played a key role in the development of the neutron spectrometer.

Quick Facts

  • Canadian Celebrities Born In July
  • Also Known As: Bertram Neville Brockhouse
  • Died At Age: 85
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Doris Miller
    • Father: Israel Bertram Brockhouse
    • Mother: Mable Emily Brockhouse
  • Physicists
  • Canadian Men
  • Died on: October 13, 2003
  • Place of death: Hamilton, Canada
  • Grouping of People: Nobel Laureates in Physics
  • Notable Alumni: University Of British Columbia
  • More Facts
  • Education: University Of Toronto, University Of British Columbia
  • Awards: Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize (1962), Duddell Medal and Prize (1963), FRS (1965), Henry Marshall Tory Medal (1973), Nobel Prize in Physics (1994)

Childhood & Early Life

Bertram Neville Brockhouse was born on July 15, 1918, in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada to Israel Bertram Brockhouse and Mable Emily Brockhouse. He had a sister Alice Evelyn and a brother Gordon Edgar. The family moved to the United States when Bertram was two years old but returned to Vancouver, BC in the winter of 1926-27. Brockhouse attended several schools including Central and Lord Roberts elementary school, King George High School, and the Sunday School of St John’s United Church.

Education and Early Career

During the Great Depression, Brockhouse’s family faced financial difficulties. In search of better opportunities, they moved to Chicago where Brockhouse attended the Central YMCA College for an evening course. He developed a love for radios and learned about the technical aspects of radio technology. He worked as a lab assistant at Aubert Controls Corporation and started a small business repairing radio sets.

In 1938, the family returned to Vancouver and Brockhouse continued his radio repair business before joining the Royal Canadian Navy in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II. After his military service, he enrolled at the University of British Columbia to study physics and mathematics. He also worked at the National Research Council laboratory in Ottawa during the summer of 1946. He completed his Master’s degree in 1948 and received his PhD from the University of Toronto two years later.

Career and Achievements

In 1950, Brockhouse accepted a position at the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratory where he conducted award-winning research on neutron scattering. He developed the first true Triple-Axis crystal spectrometer and invented the Constant Q Method. He also made advancements in the use of filters and materials in neutron scattering experiments.

Brockhouse’s most significant achievement came in the field of neutron scattering techniques. He developed a different technique called inelastic neutron scattering, which measured the relative energies of scattered neutrons to yield additional data about a material’s atomic structure. He used this technique to study phonons and measure the phonon dispersion curve of a solid.

Awards and Legacy

Brockhouse received numerous awards and honors throughout his career. In 1994, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to neutron scattering techniques. He shared the prize with American physicist Clifford Shull.

Brockhouse passed away on October 13, 2003, in Hamilton, Ontario. To honor his contributions, the Division of Condensed Matter and Materials Physics and the Canadian Association of Physicists created the Brockhouse Medal in 1999. This medal is awarded annually to recognize outstanding contributions to condensed matter and materials physics.

In 2005, McMaster University renamed a street on its campus to Brockhouse Way to commemorate his contributions to the field of physics. The town of Deep River, Ontario also named a street in his honor.

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