John Cockcroft, British physicist

John Cockcroft, British physicist

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Credit: GARY BROWN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: John Cockcroft (1897-1967). Caricature of the British physicist John Cockcroft. In 1932, Cockcroft performed the first artificial disintegration of an atomic nucleus. He bombarded a lithium nucleus with protons in a particle accelerator, and observed two alpha particles (helium nuclei) being produced. Study of the energies of these particles verified Einstein's theory of mass-energy equivalence. He was awarded the 1951 Nobel Prize for Physics for this work, along with Ernest Walton.

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