Stories from Physics for 11-14 14-16
The British physicist, Henry Moseley, showed that every element had a unique X-ray emission spectrum. Moseley was known for his doggedness as an experimentalist and his dedication to his work meant that one colleague reported that Moseley had an unrivalled knowledge of where to get a meal at three o’clock in the morning in Manchester.
Moseley was killed at Gallipoli in 1915 aged 27. His supervisor, Ernest Rutherford, wrote an obituary in the journal Nature. He expressed his horror at the loss:
“It is a national tragedy that our military organisation at the start was so inelastic as to be unable, with few exceptions, to utilise the offers of services of our scientific men except as combatants in the firing line. Our regret for the untimely end of Moseley is all the more poignant that we cannot but recognise that his services would have been far more useful to his country in one of the numerous fields of scientific inquiry rendered necessary by the war than by exposure to the chances of a Turkish bullet.”
Had he lived, commentators have suggested that Moseley would have won the Nobel prize in 1917.
A. Authier, Early Days of X-ray Crystallography, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013, p. 146.
E. Rutherford, Henry Gwyn Jeffreys Moseley, Nature vol. 96, no. 2393, 1915, pp. 33-34, p. 34.
F. Leroy, A Century of Nobel Prize Recipients: Chemistry, Physics, and Medicine, New York, NY, Marcel Dekker Inc., 2003, p. 130.