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Brockhouse, Bertram (Neville)

neutron radio laboratory matter

(1918– ) Canadian physicist.

Born in Alberta but growing up in Vancouver, BC, Brockhouse in the 1930s became a radio enthusiast; many boys did, but Brockhouse was soon more expert than most, and added to his pocket money by part-time work as a radio repairer. His skills increased with his war service in the Royal Canadian Navy working with radio and other electrical devices, followed by a physics degree course at Vancouver. Afterwards he worked for a PhD at the Low Temperature Lab at Toronto: his work on neutron scattering began there, in 1951.

Concurrently, Brockhouse and Clifford Shull (1915–2001) independently developed inelastic neutron scattering, a technique which has proved an invaluable method of probing matter, and particles. A neutron beam strikes a target and the scattered neutrons are studied; in particular their energies are measured. Brockhouse used this method to examine phonons, or lattice vibrational energy quanta within solids, and became the first to measure a solid phonon dispersion curve (the variation of the phonon’s energy with frequency). This work, winning him one half of the 1994 Nobel Prize, was carried out at Canada’s Chalk River Nuclear Laboratory during 1950–62. The Prize was shared with Shull who developed neutron diffraction at Oak Ridge National Laboratory during 1946–55. A beam of single-wavelength neutrons hits the target material and produces a diffraction pattern due to the wave (as well as particle) nature of matter. The position and magnetic poles of the atoms can be inferred.

From 1962 Brockhouse was professor of physics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, preferring to work in a relatively small community, in part because he felt it a happier environment than big-city life for his family of six children.

Brodie, Fawn (McKay) (1915–1981) - Biography [next] [back] Brock's Last Case

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