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Bertram N. Brockhouse

Bertram N. BrockhouseAKA Bertram Neville Brockhouse

Born: 15-Jul-1918
Birthplace: Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
Died: 13-Oct-2003
Location of death: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Christian [1]
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Physicist
Party Affiliation: See Note [2]

Nationality: Canada
Executive summary: Triple-axis crystal spectrometry

Military service: Royal Canadian Navy, to Sub-Lieutenant (1939-45)

Bertram N. Brockhouse worked as a radio repairman after graduating from high school, and served as an electronics technician in the Canadian Navy during World War II. With funding from Canada's Department of Veterans' Affairs he was able to attend college after his discharge from the Navy, earning his doctorate in physics at the University of Toronto in 1950. He found work at Canada's Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories, where he used neutron spectroscopes to disperse radiation, visible or invisible, into its component wavelengths for analysis.

In 1951, he proposed the construction of a device to utilize a neutron beam as a spectrometer to probe crystal structures as well as metals and minerals. His triple-axis crystal spectrometer first became operative in 1956, and allowed Brockhouse to develop a technique known as inelastic neutron scattering, to study the scattering of neutrons bombarding atoms in a crystal lattice, measuring the energy lost or absorbed from assorted atomic collisions. His work had a major impact on the theory and scientific understanding of the physics that govern solids and liquids, and found practical applications in areas ranging from computer design to infrared detectors.

Brockhouse shared the 1994 Nobel Prize with American physicist Clifford G. Shull, who conducted related work independently, using neutron probes. The time lag between the honor and the work which earned it some four decades is among the longest on record. His phone's ringer was off when the Nobel Committee called from Sweden, and Brockhouse said that he played the message on his answering machine several times in disbelief. He later joked that he thought his work was of mere minor importance, but changed his mind after he won the Nobel.


[1] United Church of Canada.

[2] Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and, later, New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP).

Father: Israel Bertram Brockhouse (grocer, d. 1946)
Mother: Mable Emily Neville (grocer)
Sister: Alice Evelyn
Brother: Robert Paul (d. infancy)
Brother: Gordon Edgar (civil engineer)
Wife: Doris Isobel Mary Miller ("Dorie", film technician, m. May-1948, four sons, two daughters)
Daughter: Anne
Son: Gordon Peter
Son: Ian Bertram
Son: James Christopher ("Jamie", autistic)
Daughter: Alice Elizabeth ("Beth")
Son: Charles Leslie (molecular biologist)

    High School: King George High School, Vancouver, BC, Canada (1935)
    University: Central YMCA College, Chicago (attended electronics class, 1935)
    University: Nova Scotia Technical College (attended electrical engineering classes, 1944-45)
    University:
BA Mathematics and Physics, University of British Columbia (1947)
    University: MA Physics, University of Toronto (1948)
    University: PhD Solid State Physics, University of Toronto (1950)
    Scholar: Physics, Chalk River Nuclear Laboratory, Ontario (1950-62)
    Scholar: Physics, Brookhaven National Laboratory (1953-54)
    Professor: Physics, McMaster University (1962-84)

    Atomic Energy of Canada Director of Nuclear Physics (1959-62)
    Atomic Energy of Canada Research Physicist (1950-59)
    Aubert Controls Corporation Lab Assistant (1935-37)
    APS Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize 1962
    IOP Duddell Medal 1963
    Centennial Medal of Canada 1967
    Guggenheim Fellowship 1970-71
    RSC Henry Marshall Tory Medal 1973
    Order of Canada Officer, 1982
    Nobel Prize for Physics 1994 (with Clifford G. Shull)
    Order of Canada Companion, 1996
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences Foreign Member, 1984
    American Physical Society Foreign Member
    Canadian Association of Physicists
    Philosophy of Science Association
    Royal Society
    Royal Society of Canada 1962
    Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Foreign Member, 1984
    Canadian Ancestry Maternal and Paternal
    English Ancestry Maternal and Paternal


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