William Lawrence Bragg
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1915
Born: 31 March 1890, Adelaide, Australia
Died: 1 July 1971, Ipswich, United Kingdom
Affiliation at the time of the award: Victoria University, Manchester, United Kingdom
Prize motivation: "for their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays."
Prize share: 1/2
Lawrence Bragg was born in Adelaide in Australia, where his father was a professor. When Bragg was 19, the family moved to Great Britain, where he studied at Cambridge. He carried out his Nobel Prize-awarded work when he was only 23, partly in collaboration with his father. After his pioneering contributions, Lawrence Bragg continued to be a central figure within his scientific field. Among other things, he was a professor in Manchester and Cambridge and at the Royal Institution in London. He married in 1921 and had four children.
Max von Laue's discovery that diffraction patterns occur when X-rays pass through crystals inspired William and Lawrence Bragg to conduct their own studies in the area. Their contributions included establishing the relationship between the wavelength of the X-ray, its angle of incidence, and the distance between the atomic layers inside the crystal. This provided a powerful tool for studying crystals' structures. Using diffraction pattern methods, it now also became possible to calculate the positions of atoms in crystalline structures.