William Henry Bragg

Sir William Henry Bragg
BornTemplate:Birth date
Wigton, Cumberland, England
Died10 March 1942(1942-03-10) (aged 79)
London, England
Alma materCambridge University
Known forX-ray diffraction
AwardsNobel Prize in Physics (1915)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Adelaide

University of Leeds
University College London

Royal Institution
Academic advisorsJ. J. Thomson
Doctoral studentsW. L. Bragg
Kathleen Lonsdale
William Thomas Astbury
John Desmond Bernal
Other notable studentsJohn Burton Cleland
He is the father of William Lawrence Bragg. Father and son jointly won the Nobel Prize.
Template:Wikidata imageSir William Henry Bragg OM KBE PRS (2 July 1862 – 10 March 1942) was a British physicist, chemist, mathematician and active sportsman.[1]

Bragg shared a Nobel Prize with his son William Lawrence Bragg – the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics.[2]


In 1885, at 23, Bragg was appointed Elder Professor of Mathematics and Experimental Physics at the University of Adelaide,[3] and started work there early in 1886.

Bragg was an able and popular lecturer; he encouraged the formation of the student union, and the attendance, free of charge, of science teachers at his lectures.[4][5]

Bragg was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1907.


Bragg returned to England at the end of 1908 and took the Cavendish Chair in Physics at the University of Leeds in 1909. He published an imporant early work on radioactivity, Studies in radioactivity, in 1912.

He invented the X-ray spectrometer, and began work with his son. Together they founded the new technique of X-ray crystallography, for which they won the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1915. That year was also marked by their book X-rays and crystal structure, the standard text for many years.

From 1914, both father and son contributed to the war effort; W.H. Bragg was connected with submarine detection, at Aberdour on Forth and at Harwich, and returned to London in 1918 as a consultant to the Admiralty.[4]

University College London

Bragg was appointed Quain Professor of Physics at University College London in 1915, but did not take up his duties there until after World War I.

Royal Institution

From 1923 he was Fullerian Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution and director of the Davy Faraday Research Laboratory.[6] This institution was practically rebuilt in 1929-30 and, under Bragg's directorship, many valuable papers were issued from the laboratory.[4]


  1. Da C. Andrade E.N. & Lonsdale K. 1943. William Henry Bragg. 1862-1942. Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society 4 (12): 276.
  2. This is still a unique accomplishment, because no other parent-child combination has yet shared a Nobel Prize (in any field). In several cases, a parent has won a Nobel Prize, and then years later, the child has won the Nobel Prize for separate research. An example of this is with Marie Curie and her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie, who are the only mother-daughter pair. Several father-son pairs have won two separate Nobel Prizes.
  3. Bragg Centenary, 1886-1986, University of Adelaide, pages 3 & 4.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Bragg, Sir William Henry (1862-1942)". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Retrieved 2008-10-07.
  5. Tomlin S.G. 1979. Australian Dictionary of Biography. Bragg, Sir William Henry (1862-1942)
  6. The Davy Faraday Research Laboratory