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Sir John Cockcroft. British atomic physicist Sir John Cockcroft (1897-1967). Cockcroft took a degree in mathematics at Cambridge, England and subsequently joined Rutherford's research team. In 1951 he was awarded the Nobel prize for physics with his colleague E.T.S. Walton. The pair investigated the formation of one atomic element from another and were the first to demonstrate the release of radioactive alpha particles from a nucleus bombarded with protons. The publication of this work marked the beginning of the nuclear era. Cockcroft also suggested the generation of power by such nuclear fission processes, which Rutherford dismissed as "moonshine".
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