Nobel Prize Winners

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS ( 20:03 :35 ): I move:

That this council—

1. Acknowledges the Centenary of the 1915 Nobel Prize awarded to father and son recipients, William Bragg and Lawrence Bragg; and

2. Recognises, with appreciation, their contribution to science and their connection to the state of South Australia.

It is an honour to move this motion to acknowledge the father and son team of William and Lawrence Bragg at the time of the centenary of the 1915 Nobel Prize and also recognise their contribution to science in South Australia and around the world.

I note that the member for Bragg in another place, Vickie Chapman MP, has given notice of a similar motion in the House of Assembly. Having contributed significantly to South Australia, the Braggs were honoured with the naming of the electorate (served by Ms Chapman) after them. The member for Bragg will speak again on this matter in the House of Assembly in November.

William Bragg was born in England in 1862 and was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. After graduating with first-class honours in 1885, he emigrated to South Australia in 1886 and became Professor of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Adelaide. He married Gwendoline Todd in 1889 and their son, William Lawrence, was born in Adelaide in 1890.

Lawrence studied at St Peter's College and then started at the University of Adelaide at the age of 16, studying chemistry, maths and physics. The family returned to England in 1908, when Lawrence graduated university and William was appointed Cavendish Chair of Physics at the University of Leeds. In 1914, at the age of just 24, Lawrence was appointed fellow and lecturer in natural sciences at Trinity College, and that same year was awarded the Barnard Medal. Sadly, it was around this time that William's other son, Robert, was killed in the Gallipoli campaign.

William and Lawrence began work together in 1913-14 and made significant contributions to the science world. Together, they founded a new branch of science: the analysis of crystal structure by means of x-rays. This was named Bragg's Law, a law which makes it possible to calculate the positions of atoms from within a crystal by using the x-ray to shoot light into the crystal and see how that light reflects off the crystal surface. William and Lawrence were jointly awarded the Nobel prize in 1915 as a result of their work, and to this day Lawrence remains the youngest ever Nobel laureate in physics.

During the First World War, William was put in charge of research on the detection and measurement of underwater sounds in the use of locating submarines. In 1917, William was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire and in 1920 he was knighted. The Order of Merit followed in 1931.

Lawrence eventually moved to the University of Manchester after being appointed as Langworthy Professor of Physics in 1919. During both World Wars he worked on sound-ranging methods for locating enemy guns. He also worked in the study of proteins, aiding Francis Crick and James D. Watson in their discovery of the structure of DNA. Lawrence was knighted in 1941, received the Copley Medal, the Royal Medal of the Royal Society and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1921, he married Alice Jenny, with whom he had two daughters and two sons.

In 2014, I was fortunate enough to travel to the University of Manchester to meet with some eminent suicide prevention researchers who are based there. While walking through the grounds, because I was a little bit early, I was surprised to find a static tribute in the grounds dedicated to the father and son scientists from Adelaide. This was part of a series of tributes to people connected to the University of Manchester who had been awarded the Nobel prize. I was pleased to learn recently from the University of Manchester that another plaque dedicated to the Braggs will be unveiled at that university in November.

Currently, in Adelaide, there is a bust of Lawrence Bragg placed on North Terrace outside the University of Adelaide and I am pleased to say that on 2 December, to celebrate the centenary of the awarding of the Nobel prize, a bronze bust of William will be placed on North Terrace to accompany the one of Lawrence. The Braggs remain significant figures in South Australian history as well as international history, and I look forward to the celebration of the upcoming centenary of their award. I advise members that I intend to seek a vote on this motion on Wednesday 18 November. I commend the motion to the council.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. G.A. Kandelaars .

Be the first to comment

Sign in with

Or sign in with email

    Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.