Edward Victor Appleton Biography

(English Physicist Who Won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1947)

Birthday: September 6, 1892 (Virgo)

Born In: Bradford, England

Sir Edward Victor Appleton was an English physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1947. He discovered a layer of the ionosphere, which is a dependable reflector of radio waves, during experiments he carried out in the mid-1920s. Born in England as the son of a warehouseman, Appleton grew up to be a brilliant student with interests in varied subjects and excelled in science and mathematics as well as in the study of literature and language. After completing his schooling he won a scholarship to St John's College, Cambridge. He graduated with first-class honors and immediately began postgraduate work in crystallography. However, the World War I began and interrupted his research work. After serving in the war as a commissioned officer he returned to his research work and started working on radio waves. Atmospheric physics was one field he was passionate about and he embarked on a series of experiments which proved the existence of a layer in the upper atmosphere which eventually became known as the ionosphere. The detection of the ionosphere and its layers played a great role in the development of radio research. The Radio and Space Research Station was renamed the Appleton Laboratory in his honour, in 1974.
Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In September

Also Known As: Sir Edward Victor Appleton

Died At Age: 72

Physicists British Men

Died on: April 21, 1965

place of death: Edinburgh, Scotland

Grouping of People: Nobel Laureates in Physics

City: Bradford, England

More Facts

education: St John's College, Cambridge, University Of Edinburgh

awards: 1947 - Nobel Prize in Physics
1933 - Hughes Medal
1962 - IEEE Medal of Honor
1946 - Faraday Medal

Childhood & Early Life
Edward Victor Appleton was born on September 6, 1892 in Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire, England to Peter Appleton, a warehouseman, and Mary Wilcock.
He received his primary education from Hanson Grammar School. He excelled in his studies and displayed a keen interest in science and mathematics.
At the age of 16 he entered the University of London. After a couple of years he won a scholarship to St John's College, Cambridge. He graduated with a first class degree in Natural Sciences in 1913.
Following his graduation, he immediately began postgraduate work in crystallography with the distinguished physicist Sir Lawrence Bragg.
The World War I broke out in 1914 and interrupted his research work.
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Edward Victor Appleton became a commissioned officer during the World War I. He joined the West Riding Regiment, and later transferred to the Royal Engineers. During his war service he was introduced to radio, a means of communication then in its infancy in the military. This kindled in him an interest in radio waves.
After the war he joined the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge in 1920 as the assistant demonstrator in experimental physics. There he worked in collaboration with Balthazar van der Pol and the two began an investigation of the operation of radio vacuum tubes.
In 1924, he was appointed Wheatstone professor of physics at King’s College, University of London. There he gained much prominence for his research into the propagation of electromagnetic waves and detected the existence of a layer of ionosphere which came to be known as the F layer of ionization. He was aided in his research by a young graduate student from New Zealand named Miles Barnett.
The layer of ionosphere he detected was eventually named Appleton–Barnett layer after him and Miles Barnett. The discovery of this layer helped in the development of more reliable long-range radio communication.
He was appointed Jacksonian Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Cambridge in 1936 and served there till 1939.
In 1939 he became the secretary of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. During the World War II, he worked on radar and the atomic bomb in this position.
As the secretary of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, he was also made responsible for the administrative control of all British work on the subject. In 1943 he visited the United States and Canada in order to facilitate collaboration between American and British scientists.
He also worked along with Dr. J.S. Hey of the Ministry of Supply and the two men discovered that sunspots are powerful emitters of short radio waves.
He was made the Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh in 1949, a post he would hold until his death in 1965.
The BBC invited him in 1956 to deliver the annual Reith Lectures. Edward Victor Appleton delivered a series of six radio broadcasts, titled ‘Science and the Nation’ in which he explored the different aspects of scientific activity in Britain at the time.
Major Works
Sir Edward Victor Appleton is best remembered for discovering a specific layer of the ionosphere. The layer, called the F layer of the ionosphere, also called the Appleton–Barnett layer, named after him and New Zealander Miles Barnett, has the highest concentration of free electrons and ions anywhere in the atmosphere.
Awards & Achievements
He was knighted in 1941.
Edward Appleton was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1947 “for his investigations of the physics of the upper atmosphere especially for the discovery of the so-called Appleton layer".
He is also the recipient of several other prestigious awards including Hughes Medal (1933), Faraday Medal (1946), Chree Medal (1947), Royal Medal (1950), and Albert Medal (1950).
Personal Life &Legacy
He married Jessie, daughter of the Rev. J. Longson, in 1915. The couple had two daughters.
He died on 21 April 1965, at the age of 72, in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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