Charles Glover Barkla, Nobel Prize in Physics 1917

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Charles Glover Barkla, Nobel Prize in Physics 1917

Birthdate: (67)
Birthplace: Widnes, Lancashire, UK
Death: Died in Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Son of John Martin Barkla and Sarah Glover
Husband of Mary Esther Barkla
Father of Child #1 Barkla; Child #2 Barkla and Michael Barkla

Managed by: Private User
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About Charles Glover Barkla, Nobel Prize in Physics 1917

Charles Glover Barkla FRS (7 June 1877 to 23 October 1944) was a British physicist, and the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1917 for his work in X-ray spectroscopy and related areas in the study of X-rays (Roentgen rays).


Barkla was born in Widnes, England(father J.M. Barkla), and he studied at the Liverpool Institute and at Liverpool University. In 1899, Barkla went to Trinity College, Cambridge, as an Exhibition Scholar to work in the Cavendish Laboratory under the physicist J. J. Thomson. At the end of a year and a half, his love of music led him to move on to King's College, Cambridge, where he joined its chapel choir. He completed his bachelor of arts degree in 1903, and then his Master of Arts degree in 1907. No information seems to be available about when or where he earned a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree, but it is known that the great physicists J.J. Thompson (the discoverer of the electron) and Oliver Lodge were his doctoral advisors.

In 1913, after having worked at the Universities of Cambridge and Liverpool, and King's College, London, Barkla was appointed as a professor of natural philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, a position that he held until his death. Barkla married Mary Esther Cowell in 1907.

Barkla made significant progress in developing and refining the laws of X-ray scattering, X-ray spectroscopy, the principles governing the transmission of X-rays through matter, and especially the principles of the excitation of secondary X-rays. 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.

Barkla, a Fellow of the Royal Society, had several honorary degrees. He was appointed Bakerian Lecturer (Royal Society) in 1916 and he was awarded the Hughes Medal in the following year.

Charles Glover Barkla married Mary Esther, the eldest daughter of John T. Cowell of Douglas, Receiver-General of the Isle of Man, in 1907. They had two sons and one daughter. Their youngest son, Flight Lieutenant Michael Barkla, a brilliant scholar, was killed in action in 1943. Barkla's chief recreation was singing - he had a powerful baritone voice and he was a member of the King's College Chapel Choir, 1901-1902. Latterly, he had also become fond of golf.

Barkla died at his home, Braidwood, Edinburgh, on October 23, 1944.

Memorials to Barkla

The lunar crater Barkla was named in the honor of Charles Barkla. Also a commemorative plaque has been installed in the vicinity of the Canongate, near the Faculty of Education Buildings, at the University of Edinburgh. Additionally, a lecture theatre at the University of Liverpool's Physics department is named after him.

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Charles Glover Barkla, Nobel Prize in Physics 1917's Timeline

June 7, 1877
Widnes, Lancashire, UK
October 23, 1944
Age 67
Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom