Charles Barkla and X-Ray Scattering

Charles Barkla

Charles Barkla

On June 7, 1877British physicist Charles Glover Barkla was born. Barkla received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in X-ray spectroscopy. In particular for his work on X-ray scattering. This technique is applied to the investigation of atomic structures, by studying how X-rays passing through a material and are deflected by the atomic electrons.

Charles Barkla studied at the Liverpool Institute and proceeded by Liverpool University with a County Council Scholarship and a Bibby Scholarship. In 1899, he started at Trinity College, Cambridge to work in the Cavendish Laboratory under the physicist J. J. Thomson. Under Thompson, Barkla studied the velocity of electromagnetic waves along wires of different widths and materials. At King’s College, Cambridge, Barkla earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1903 and his Master’s degree four years later. He was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh in 1913.

Around 1902, Charles Barkls first worked on Röntgen radiation. He discovered the homogeneous radiations characteristic of the elements and Barkla managed to show that these elements had their characteristic line spectra in X-ray and he was the first to show that secondary emission is of two kinds, one consisting of X-rays scattered unchanged, and the other a fluorescent radiation peculiar to the particular substance. Barkla further discovered the polarisation of X-rays and made contributions to the present knowledge on the absorption and photographic action of X-rays. His later work demonstrated the relation between the characteristic X-radiation and the corpuscular radiation accompanying it. Charles Barkla further demonstrated the applicability and the limitation of the quantum theory in relation to Röntgen radiation. His discoveries were recorded in several papers which have appeared mainly in the Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society. For his discovery of the characteristic X-rays of elements, Barkla was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1917. He was also awarded the Hughes Medal of the British Royal Society that same year.

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