Professor Brian Cox to unveil plaque in honour of Aberdeen Nobel-Prize winner

Professor Brian Cox to unveil plaque in honour of Aberdeen Nobel-Prize winner

A plaque in honour of an Aberdeen Nobel Prize winner will be unveiled by one of the world’s best-known physicists at the British Science Festival.

Professor Brian Cox, famous for his work on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, near Geneva, and for presenting BBC television series such as Wonders of the Universe, will perform the honours when a blue plaque in memory of the late George Paget Thomson is revealed at Marischal College.

Professor Cox is in Aberdeen for the British Science Festival which runs from September 4-9 with a host of events in Aberdeen city, shire and beyond.

Thomson, son of the famous physicist JJ Thomson, joined the University of Aberdeen as a Professor of Natural Philosophy in 1922, at the age of just 30.

It was a post he held for eight years and during that time he carried out extensive work at Marischal College on the behaviour of electrons going through very thin films of metals, which showed that electrons behave as waves in spite of being particles.

For this work he later shared the Nobel Prize in Physics of 1937 with the American physicist C.J. Davisson, who had arrived at the same conclusions by a different kind of experiment.

The process of electron diffraction which these experiments established has been widely used in the investigation of the surfaces of solids. 

Dr John S. Reid, Honorary Curator of the University’s historical scientific instrument collection, said: “Thomson’s work showed that the new ideas of quantum physics really were confirmed by experiment and his results quickly appeared in all books setting out to explain the new fundamental physics of his era.”

Thomson’s contribution to physics is covered in Cox’s book The Quantum Universe, which he co-authored with Jeff Forshaw.

The plaque has been offered to the University of Aberdeen by the Institute of Physics and is part of its prestigious scheme to commemorate ground breaking physicists throughout history.

As well as acknowledging the work of Thomson, the plaque also commemorates C. G. Fraser, chief laboratory technician from Aberdeen whom Thomson credited with playing a pivotal role in designing and building the ground breaking experiments.

Dr Ken Skeldon, Head of Public Engagement at the University of Aberdeen, said: “It is fitting that Aberdeen becomes only the third place in Scotland to have an Institute of Physics plaque recognising a great achiever. George Paget Thomson was an exceptional physicist whose experiments tested the theories of quantum mechanics being put forward by other great minds of the day

“His Nobel Prize was awarded for the work he carried out during his time at Marischal College aided significantly by his chief technician C G Fraser and there has been a long campaign to have them both recognised through this scheme.

“The British Science Festival provided the perfect catalyst to drive this project forward, and it is even more fitting that Brian Cox, whose new book with Jeff Forshaw features Thomson’s work, should perform the unveiling.”

A small ceremony to official reveal the plaque will take place on Thursday September 6.