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Francis W. Aston

Francis W. AstonAKA Francis William Aston

Born: 1-Sep-1877
Birthplace: Harborne, Birmingham, England
Died: 20-Nov-1945
Location of death: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Chemist, Physicist

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Invented the mass spectograph

Military service: Royal Aircraft Establishment (1914-18)

British scientist Francis W. Aston won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1922, for his 1919 invention of the mass spectrograph, a new type of positive-ray apparatus which uses magnetic and electrostatic fields producing opposite deflections in the same plane to convert molecules into ions, then sorts the ions by to their mass-to-charge ratio. The mass spectroscope proved the existence of isotopes, allowed study of nuclear masses with great precision, and helped lay the foundation for the atomic energy and weaponry. Aston himself used the device to identify 212 isotopes. In 1920 he formulated the "whole number rule", using the existence of isotopes to revive a hypothesis by WilliamProut (1785-1850), that all atoms are aggregations of hydrogen atoms.

After earning his degree in Chemistry at the University of Birmingham in 1898, he worked for several years at a local brewery and pursued chemistry experiments in a small laboratory in his home. He later worked as an assistant to J. J. Thomson, who discovered the electron. He also studied the cause of a dark region visible in glow-discharge tubes under cathode glow, which has come to be known as the Aston Dark Space since publication of his findings in 1911. Aston never married, and for most of his adult life his closest companion was his sister Helen.

Father: William Aston (farmer and metal merchant, d. 1908)
Mother: Fanny Charlotte Hollis Aston
Sister: Helen Aston (b. 1890)
Sister: Mary Aston

    High School: Harborne Vicarage School, Worcestershire, England (1891)
    High School: Malvern College, Worcestershire, England (1893)
    University: BS Chemistry, University of Birmingham (1898)
    Scholar: Chemistry, University of Birmingham (1898-1900)
    Scholar: Chemistry, University of Birmingham (1903-09)
    Lecturer: Chemistry, University of Birmingham (1909-10)
    Scholar: Cavedish Laboratory, Cambridge University (1910-14)
    Scholar: Cavedish Laboratory, Cambridge University (1914-45)
    Fellow: Trinity College, Cambridge University (1919-45)

    W. Butler & Co. Brewery Employee (1900-03)
    Mackenzie Davidson Medal 1920
    Royal Society 1921
    Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1922
    Hughes Medal 1922
    John Scott Medal 1923
    Emanuele Paterṇ Medal 1923
    Accademia dei Lincei 1926
    Royal Medal 1938
    IOP Duddell Medal 1941
    Athenaeum Club (London)
    Royal Institute of Chemistry
    Russian Academy of Sciences Foreign Member
    English Ancestry
    Lunar Crater Aston (32.9° N 87.7° W, 43 km. diameter)

Author of books:
Isotopes (1922)
Structural Units of the Material Universe (1923)
Mass Spectra and Isotopes (1933)


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