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.
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.