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Hofstadter, Robert

nuclear stanford nuclei princeton

[hof stater] (1915–90) US physicist: used electron scattering by nuclei to give details of nuclear structure.

Graduating from New York and Princeton, Hofstadter afterwards worked at the Norden Laboratory Corporation (1943–6), Princeton and Stanford (1950) with a full professorship at 39; he was director of the Stanford high-energy physics laboratory from 1967–74.

In 1948 Hofstadter invented an improved scintillation counter using sodium iodide, activated by thallium. At Stanford he used linearly accelerated electrons scattered by nuclei to study nuclear structure. The charge density in the nucleus was revealed to be constant, but falling sharply at the nuclear surface, with a radial distribution related to the nuclear mass. Neutrons and protons were shown to have size and shape (ie were not ‘points’) and could be regarded as made up of charged shells of mesons, with the total charge cancelling out in a neutron. Hofstadter was led to predict the rho-meson and omega-meson, both of which were later observed experimentally. He shared a Nobel Prize in 1961.

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