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and tartaric acid). He realized that this ability of ical system will develop over time so as to return
some substances in solution must mean that the exactly to a previous configuration. In 1938 Birkhoff
effect is a molecular property (‘optical activity’). He published several papers on electromagnetism and
showed (Biot’s Law) that the amount of rotation of also argued that better alternatives to Einstein’s
the plane of polarization of light passing through general theory of relativity were possible.
an optically active medium is proportional to the Overall Birkhoff is acknowledged as the greatest
length of its path, and to the concentration, if the American mathematician of the early 20th-c; he
medium is a solution of an active solute in an inac- excelled as a teacher and in developing celestial
tive solvent, and that the rotation is roughly mechanics and the analysis of dynamical systems.
Bishop, (John) Michael (1936– ) US virologist
inversely proportional to the square of the wave-
length of the light. and oncologist.
Polarimetry (measurement of optical activity) A graduate in medicine from Harvard, Bishop
was pioneered by Biot and after 1870 proved of became in the 1960s a virologist at the National
great value in gaining information on molecular Institutes of Health at Bethesda, MD, and from 1968
configuration (shape). Later still, the variation in at the University of California. In the 1970s he
optical rotation with the wavelength of the polar- worked with H E Varmus to test the idea that
ized light was also found to be useful in locating normal mammalian cells contain genes that,
molecular shape. although dormant, can be activated to cause the
Biot was a man of great talent, as was seen by his uncontrolled proliferation characteristic of cancer.
older friend Laplace; and in his old age Biot saw and By 1976 they confirmed that healthy cells do indeed
appreciated the talent of his young friend Pasteur. contain dormant viral genes similar to the cancer-
Birkeland, Kristian Olaf Bernhard [beerkuh- inducing gene present in the Rous sarcoma virus
lahnt] (1867–1917) Norwegian physicist: devised that causes cancer in chickens, which by faulty acti-
process for nitrogen fixation. vation can lead to cancer. By 1989 Bishop, Varmus
Birkeland studied physics in Paris, Geneva and and others had found over 40 genes which can
Bonn before returning to his native Oslo to teach at potentially induce cancer (oncogenes) and in that
the Christiania University. He studied the aurora year the two shared the Nobel Prize.
Bjerknes, Vilhelm (Firman Koren) [byerknes]
borealis and in 1896 suggested (correctly) that it
resulted from some charged solar radiation becom- (1862–1951) Norwegian meteorologist: pioneer of
ing trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field near the dynamical meteorology.
North Pole. His theory was partly based on an exper-
iment with a magnetized model of the Earth, which
he placed in a beam of electrons in a cathode ray
tube; he found luminous effects near the poles
which resembled aurorae. However, he is best
known as co-discoverer of the Birkeland–Eyde
process. This was designed to meet the shortage of
nitrate fertilizer, and used Cavendish’s observa-
tion of 1784 that atmospheric nitrogen and oxygen
combined in an electric spark to give nitrogen
monoxide, NO. The process used an electric arc
spread by a magnetic field and the NO was mixed
with air and water to give nitric acid; it was used
(with the benefit of cheap Norwegian hydro-elec-
tricity) from 1903–28.
Birkhoff, George (David) (1884–1944) US math-
ematician: proved the ergodic theorem of probabil-
ity theory.
After taking his first degree at Harvard and a doc-
torate on boundary problems at Chicago, Birkhoff
taught at Michigan and Princeton. He became an
assistant professor at Harvard in 1912 and a full
professor there at 35 in 1919, retiring in 1939.
An early interest in differential and difference
equations allowed Birkhoff to apply matrix meth-
ods generally for the first time. He studied dynam-
ics and Poincaré’s celestial mechanics, and in 1913
obtained a now famous proof of Poincaré’s ‘last geo-
metrical theorem’ on the three-body problem. Vilhelm Bjerknes
39
Black, Sir James

1 2 3
NORTH cold air
cold air
cold air
front
front wa
warm rm
old front
c




t
on




fro
fr t




n
cold
warm air
warm air
warm air
SOUTH

4 5 6 cold air
occ
cold air cold air




lud
ed front
wa
rm




front
nt




A B t
fro




on warm front
fro




d fr
nt




ld c ol
co
warm air warm air warm air


7
Ci
Cs
Ac As
Cb
Ns
9 km
cold air Ns
warm air cold air


70 km 200 km 300 km 500 km


Depression – plan view of the six idealized stages in the development and final occlusion of a depression along a polar
front in the Northern Hemisphere. Stage 4 shows a well developed depression system and stage 5 shows the occlusion.
The cross-section (7) is taken along the line AB in stage 4. The cloud types are: Cb – cumulonimbus; As– altostratus; Ac –
altocumulus; Cs – cirrostratus; Ns – nimbostratus; Ci – cirrus.

Bjerknes’s father was professor of mathematics at was a university lecturer there, in Malaya and in
the Christiania University (now Oslo), and Bjerknes Glasgow before working in pharmacology first
himself held professorships at Stockholm and with ICI, and later with Smith, Kline & French and
Leipzig before founding the Bergen Geophysical with Wellcome. At the time of his Nobel Prize in
Institute in 1917. Through his hydrodynamic 1988 he had been professor of analytical pharma-
models of the atmosphere and the oceans Bjerknes cology at King’s College Hospital Medical School,
made important contributions to meteorology, London, from 1984.
and in 1904 showed how weather prediction could He is best known for two major contributions to
be achieved numerically using mathematical medicine. His work on beta-blockers was based on
models. During the First World War Bjerknes estab- the theory that heart muscle has specific beta-recep-
lished a network of weather stations throughout tors that respond to hormonal control; Black rea-
Norway, the results allowing him and his collabo- soned that if these sites could be blocked, the effect
rators (who included his son, Jacob (1897–1975), of the hormones on the heart would be inhibited
and Bergeron) to develop their theory of polar and its workload reduced; and he was able to find a
fronts. They demonstrated that the atmosphere is very satisfactory antagonist, propranolol, in 1964.
composed of distinct air masses with different Since then such beta-blockers have been much used
characteristics, the boundaries between such air to control heart disease and hypertension. He went
masses being called ‘fronts’. Their Bergen frontal on to devise a comparatively rational approach to
theory, as it became known, explains how cyclones the control of stomach ulcers; he deduced in 1972
are generated over the Atlantic where warm and that a particular type of histamine receptor is located
cold air masses meet. on the wall of the gut and stimulates acid secretion
Black, Sir James (Whyte) (1924– ) British pharma- in the stomach, and then found a compound (cime-
cologist: designer of novel drugs. tidine) that blocked the action of these H2 receptors,
A graduate in medicine from St Andrews, Black so curbing stomach acidity and allowing healing.
40
Blackett, Patrick

Black’s successes much encouraged a rational coal; that it behaves as an acid (eg in neutralizing
approach in medicinal chemistry, as well as having an alkali); and he deduced its presence in small
provided drugs of value in two major areas. quantities in the atmosphere. He was a very popu-
Stomach (or peptic) ulcer patients treated with lar lecturer at Glasgow and later in Edinburgh; one
cimetidine may find their ulcers recur. Happily, the of his pupils was Benjamin Rush (1745–1813), who
young Australian physician Barry Marshall (1952– ) became the first professor of chemistry in America.
showed in 1983–4 that such ulcers are often due to He taught Lavoisier’s new views on chemistry
infection by a bacterium, Helicobacter pylori. It had when they appeared, but his own research moved
been assumed that bacteria could not survive the to physics. About 1763 he showed that heat is nec-
very acid conditions in the stomach: Marshall took essary to produce a change of state from solid to
H. pylori cultured from a sample of a patient’s stom- liquid, or liquid to vapour, without a rise in tem-
ach contents, and showed that they flourished (they perature; e.g., ice at 0° requires heat to form water
burrow into the mucosa of the stomach lining). at 0°. He called this ‘latent heat’. On this basis, he
Antibiotics readily eliminate the bacteria and in went on to distinguish clearly between heat and
most patients the cure is permanent. temperature; and he examined the different heat
Black, Hitchings and Gertrude Elion shared a capacity of substances. Thus in physics, as in chem-
Nobel Prize in 1988. istry, he provided basic ideas essential for the sub-
Black, Joseph (1728–99) British physician, chemist ject to advance.
Blackett, Patrick (Maynard Stuart), Baron
and physicist: pioneer of modern chemical logic;
Blackett (1897–1974) British physicist: used an
discoverer of latent heat and specific heat.
Black was born in Bordeaux, where his Scots-Irish improved Wilson cloud chamber to make discover-
father was a wine merchant. Joseph was educated ies using cosmic rays.
in Belfast, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Finally, he stud- Blackett, the son of a stockbroker, was educated
ied medicine. His work for his MD degree, at Osborne and Dartmouth Naval Colleges and saw
expanded in a paper of 1756, is his major contribu- action at sea in the battles of the Falkland Islands
tion to chemistry; it is a model of experiment and (1914) and Jutland (1916). He then studied physics
logic. In particular, he saw the importance of at Cambridge and, continuing in research, made
recording changes of weight and he recognized the the first cloud chamber photographs (1924) of the
importance of gases. He studied the cycle of transmutation of nitrogen into oxygen-17 by bom-
changes we would now express in formulae as fol- bardment with alpha particles (helium nuclei). He
lows: (note that Black knew his compounds by the was appointed to professorships in London (1933),
names given in brackets; formulae and atomic Manchester (1937) and finally Imperial College,
theory came much later, but he understood the key London (1953). During the Second World War
relationships between the compounds): Blackett pioneered the use of operational research
CaCO3 (limestone) + heat to produce economies in military resources, includ-
→ CaO (quicklime) + CO2 (fixed air) ing work on submarine warfare, and also invented
CaO + H2O (water) → Ca(OH)2 (slaked lime) a new bomb-sight for aircraft. After the war he was
Ca(OH)2 + CO2 → CaCO3 + H2O active in public affairs, opposing the growing role
Black showed that fixed air (CO2) is produced by of nuclear weapons. He was awarded the Nobel
respiration and fermentation, and by burning char- Prize for physics in 1948 .
The prize winning work was the construction,
with Occhialini, of a cloud chamber that under-
went vapour expansion and took a photograph
when two aligned Geiger counters were triggered.
Blackett used the apparatus to identify the first
positron to be seen following their prediction by
Dirac; however while he sought further experi-
mental confirmation C D Anderson’s discovery of
the positron was published first.
Blackett and Occhialini in the next year, 1933, in
their studies of cosmic rays found that a high-
energy photon can transform into a positron and
an electron (pair production) and that the reverse
process (pair annihilation) also occurs. Some of
their cloud chamber photographs showed showers
of positrons and electrons formed in this way.
Legend has it that Occhialini raced to Rutherford’s
house with the first such image, and in his enthu-
siasm kissed the maid who opened the door.
After the Second World War, working at Imperial
College, London, Blackett studied rock magnetism,
finding that the Earth’s history included changes
in its magnetic field in accord with WEGENER’s
Joseph Black
41
Blackman, Frederick Frost

theory of continental drift over geological time. He there all her life. After education at home and
was made a life peer in 1969. boarding school in London she remained at home,
Blackman, Frederick Frost (1866–1947) British occupying herself with voluntary social work. She
plant physiologist: demonstrated that gas exchange had a natural aptitude for mathematics and taught
occurs through leaf stomata. herself using her brothers’ school books; later she
Blackman was the eldest son in a family of 11 and had no difficulty in manipulating harmonic analy-
followed his father in studying medicine. However, sis. When in middle age she attended a course of
he never practised; he had been a keen botanist University Extension lectures given in Cheadle, she
since his schooldays and in 1887 he moved to became seriously interested in astronomy. She
Cambridge as a science student, stayed to teach and wished to do original work and her tutor pointed
never left. out the great need for a uniform lunar nomencla-
In 1895 he showed experimentally that gas ture. At that time there were many discrepancies
exchange between plant leaves and the air occurs between the maps of the principal selenographers,
through the stomata; it had been believed since 1832, the same name attached to different formations
but not proved, that these pores are the entry points and different names given to the same formation.
for the exchange. In 1905 he put forward the princi- In 1905 a committee was appointed by the
ple of limiting factors: where a plant process depends International Association of Academies to attack
on several independent factors, the overall rate is lim- the problem. Mary Blagg was appointed by S A
ited by the rate of the slowest factor. This idea was Saunder, a member of that committee, to collate
offered by Liebig in the 1840s, but Blackman demon- the names given to all the lunar formations on
strated it clearly by work on the effect of tempera- existing maps of the moon and her resulting
ture, light and carbon dioxide availability on Collated List was published in 1913. In 1920 the
photosynthesis in the aquatic willow moss. International Astronomical Union was formed and
Blackwell, Elizabeth (1821–1910) British–US physi- Mary Blagg was appointed to its Lunar Commission.
cian: the first woman to graduate in medicine in She continued to work on lunar nomenclature and
the USA and the first woman on the British Medical was appointed with Dr MĂĽller of Vienna to prepare
Register. a definitive list of names. Named Lunar Formations
Elizabeth Blackwell was born in Bristol and was became the standard authority on lunar nomen-
taught by a tutor at home. When she was 11, the clature (1935). The International Lunar Committee
family emigrated to the USA and she went to school gave her name to a small lunar crater.
Blau, Marietta (1894–1970) Austrian physicist:
in New York. After the death of her father 6 years
later, she became a teacher, but was not attracted introduced photographic emulsion for detection of
to the work. She decided on a medical career, more nuclear particles.
as a challenge than as a vocation. After many fruit- Born and educated in Vienna, Blau worked
less applications she was accepted by Geneva mainly there, on gamma-rays, X-rays and radioac-
College in New York. This happened because the tive decay, largely unpaid. In the early 1930s she
application was thought to be a student joke by a began to work on the tracks formed in photo-
rival college and was accepted in like spirit. graphic emulsion by ionizing particles and radia-
Honourably, they kept to their commitment and tion. At that time the study of cosmic rays was of
she graduated in 1849. After further studies in Paris rising importance. V. F. Hess had shown that they
and London she returned to New York in 1851, but were high-energy particles from outer space, with
found she was prevented from practising. She gave energies higher than any other particles known
lectures on hygiene, which brought useful social until modern accelerators were built. Blau found
that α-particles and recoil protons made tracks in
and professional contacts, and in 1853 opened a dis-
pensary in a poor district of New York; from this the photo emulsions from which their direction and
New York Infirmary for Women and Children energy could be deduced. By 1936 she was using
emerged. With onset of the Civil War, plans for improved emulsions, exposed to cosmic rays on
a medical school were shelved and Elizabeth nearby mountains at 2300 m, and found sets of
Blackwell went to Europe to lecture on ‘Medicine as star-like tracks with up to 12 branches: these
a Profession for Ladies’. In 1859 she placed her resulted from disintegration of atoms in the emul-
name on the new British Medical Register, becom- sion as a result of cosmic ray impact.
ing the first women to do so. She returned to the Her plans to use higher altitudes were aborted
USA where her medical institute was opened in when the Nazis entered Austria in 1938; fortu-
1868. In 1869 she returned to Britain to practise nately she was visiting Copenhagen, but as a Jew,
medicine and later retired to Scotland. Elizabeth return to Austria was not wise. After a year in Oslo,
Blackwell influenced many women, by her exam- and with the support of Einstein, she was offered a
ple and lectures, to battle for acceptance into professorship at the Technical University of Mexico
medical schools in their own country. City. On her way there by airship, at a stop-over in
Blagg, Mary Adela (1858–1944) British amateur Hamburg, her luggage was searched and her films
astronomer; prepared the definitive uniform lunar with particle tracks on emulsions and notes of
nomenclature. future research were removed. A period of low-paid
Mary Blagg was born in Cheadle, North Stafford- and unsatisfactory jobs followed, in Mexico and
shire, the eldest daughter of a solicitor, and lived the USA. She improved the photo technique for
42
Bohr, Niels

high-energy particles, and received the Schrödinger the 1990s Mazeh and Goldman at Tel Aviv noted
Prize in 1962 (he twice nominated her for a Nobel that three planets, deduced to exist in orbits
Prize, without success). The circumstances of the around the pulsar PSR B1257+12, have distances
time, and her health and perhaps her personality, from it also conforming to Bode’s Law, which sug-
denied her the full recognition her work deserved. gests that it may apply to all comparable planetary
Its fuller development came at the hands of C F systems.
Bogoliubov, Nikolai Nikolaevich (1909– ) Soviet
Powell in Bristol in the post Second World War
period. mathematical physicist: contributed to quantum
Bloch, Felix [blokh] (1905–83) Swiss–US physicist: theory and the theory of superconductivity.
invented nuclear magnetic resonance spectro- Bogoliubov worked at the Academy of Sciences in
metry. the Ukraine and at the Soviet Academy of Sciences.
Bloch was educated at ZĂĽrich and Leipzig, but He contributed new mathematical techniques to
following a short period of teaching in Germany physics, and the Bogoliubov transformation, by
moved to the USA in 1933. He spent the rest of his which variables are changed in quantum field
career at Stanford. theory, is named after him. A distribution function
The theory of solid-state physics and of how elec- describing non-equilibrium processes is due to
trons behave in solids was advanced by Bloch’s him, as are many developments in parallel to the
research. The Bloch wavefunction describes an elec- BCS theory of superconductivity.
Bohr, Niels (Henrik David) [baw(r)] (1885–1962)
tron which is moving freely in a solid and the term
Bloch wall describes the boundary between two Danish theoretical physicist: put forward the quan-
magnetic domains in a ferromagnetic material. tum theory of the electronic structure of atoms.
In 1946 Bloch introduced the nuclear magnetic Bohr’s family was distinguished, his father was
resonance (NMR) technique, also developed inde- professor of physiology at Copenhagen and his
pendently by Purcell. Many types of atomic younger brother Harald a gifted mathematician.
nucleus possess a magnetic moment and quantum Niels and Harald were both footballers to a profes-
mechanics indicated that the moment could only sional standard and Niels and his son Aage (born in
adopt one of a number of possible orientations 1922) both won the Nobel Prize for physics, in 1922
with respect to an applied magnetic field. Each and 1975 respectively.
orientation requires a different energy and so tran- After Bohr had finished his doctorate at Copen-
sitions from one state to another can be accom- hagen (1911) he spent 8 months in Cambridge with
plished if a photon of electromagnetic radiation (of J J Thomson, who was not attracted by Bohr’s ideas
radio frequencies) is absorbed. The magnetic on atomic structure, and so he moved to join
moments of the proton and neutron were mea- Rutherford at Manchester and spent 4 years there.
sured by this method and since then many complex Rutherford’s model of the atom (1911) envisaged
molecules have been studied. The energy state of electrons as spread around the central positive
the nucleus gives information about its atomic nucleus, but according to classical physics this
neighbours in the molecule because of the effect of system would be unstable. Bohr countered this dif-
the surrounding electrons. Bloch shared the 1952 ficulty by suggesting that the electron’s orbital
Nobel Prize for physics with Purcell, and the NMR angular momentum about the nucleus can only
method has since become a powerful analytical
technique in chemistry.
Bode, Johann Elert [bohduh] (1747–1826) German
astronomer: publicized numerological relation-
ship between planetary distances.
Although Bode was director of the Berlin Obser-
vatory for almost 40 years and constructed a
notable star atlas, his fame rests, strangely enough,
on his popularization of a relationship discovered
by someone else. In 1772 J D Titius (1729–96)
pointed out that the members of the simple series
0,3,6,12,24,48,96, when added to 4 and divided by
10, give the mean radii of the planetary orbits in
astronomical units, surprisingly accurately (even
though only six planets were known at the time).
(An astronomical unit (AU) is the mean distance of
Earth from the Sun.) Through Bode’s publicizing of
the relationship it became named after him. It
played a part in the discovery of Uranus, the aster-
oid belt (the fifth ‘planet’), and Neptune (although
its results are hopelessly inaccurate for Neptune
and Pluto). It has never been proved whether Bode’s
Law has any real meaning, or is merely coinciden-
tal; if the latter, it is a remarkable coincidence. In Niels Bohr
43
Bois-Reymond, Emil du

adopt multiples of a certain fixed value, ie it is model of the nucleus was to be much developed by
quantized. Radiation is then only emitted or others, and notably by Aage Bohr.
absorbed when an electron hops from one allowed Unlike many physicists who have shaped their
orbit to another. On this basis Bohr calculated in ideas alone, Bohr refined his ideas in discussions,
1913 what the emission and absorption spectra of which often became monologues. He was very pop-
atomic hydrogen should be, and found excellent ular with his fellow physicists, who produced a 5-
agreement with the observed spectrum as described yearly Journal of Jocular Physics in his honour to
by Rydberg and Balmer. celebrate his birthdays.
Bois-Reymond, Emil du (1818–96) German physi-
In 1916 Bohr returned to Copenhagen and 2 years
later became the first director of its Institute of ologist: pioneer electrophysiologist.
Theoretical Physics. This became the focal centre Du Bois-Reymond’s father was a Swiss teacher
for theoretical physics for a generation, in which who moved to Berlin; he was an expert on linguis-
physicists throughout the world co-operated in tics and authoritarian enough to ‘arouse his son’s
developing quantum theory. In that first year Bohr spirit of resistance’. The family spoke French and
established the ‘correspondence principle’: that a felt part of the French community in Berlin. Emil
quantum description of microscopic physics must studied a range of subjects at Berlin for 2 years
tend to the classical description for larger dimen- before he was fully attracted to medicine, which he
sions. studied under J P MĂĽller. He graduated in 1843 and
His ‘complementarity principle’ appeared in was then already working on animal electricity
1927: there is no sharp separation between atomic (discovered by Galvani) and especially on electric
objects and their interaction with the instruments fishes. He introduced refined physical methods for
measuring their behaviour. This is in keeping with measuring these effects and by 1849 had a sensitive
Broglie’s belief in the equivalence of wave and par- multiplier for measuring nerve currents; he found
ticle descriptions of matter; Heisenberg’s uncer- an electric current in injured, intact and contract-
tainty principle and Born’s use of probability ing muscles. He traced it correctly to individual
waves to describe matter also fit naturally with this fibres and found that their interior is negative with
principle. respect to the surface. He showed the existence of a
Rutherford’s work had developed nuclear physics resting current in nerves and suggested, correctly,
to the point by the 1930s where Bohr could apply that nerve impulses might be transmitted chemi-
quantum theory to the nucleus also. This was held cally. He was modest, but also confident, and his
to be of neutrons and protons coupled strongly ideas aroused vigorous debate; his experimental
together like molecules in a liquid drop (1936). The methods dominated electrophysiology for a century.
Boksenberg, Alexander (1936– ) British astro-
very variable response of nuclei to collisions with
neutrons of different energies could then be physicist: inventor of an image photon counting
explained in terms of the possible excited states of system (IPCS) of great value in optical astronomy.
this ‘liquid drop’. By 1939 Bohr and J A Wheeler Boksenberg studied physics in London, and from
(1911–95) had a good theory of nuclear fission the 1960s worked on image-detecting systems for
and were able to predict that uranium-235 would use in space vehicles and ground-based telescopes.
be a more appropriate isotope for fission (and, For a century, photographic plates or films have
as Einstein pointed out, an atomic bomb) than been used to accumulate light in faint telescopic
uranium-238. images, but the method has disadvantages and elec-
By the autumn of 1943 Bohr was in danger in tronic detectors (eg CCDs, charge-coupled devices)
occupied Denmark (his mother was Jewish) and he have been much used. Boksenberg’s method uses a
chose to escape to Sweden in a fishing boat. He was TV camera and image intensifier, whose amplified
then flown to England in the bomb-bay of a signals are processed by computer, to give a pixel
Mosquito aircraft. Before he left Denmark he dis- picture of dots (each due to a photon) which can be
solved the heavy gold medal of his Nobel Prize in both viewed and stored.
acid; the inconspicuous solution escaped detection In this way, very distant and/or faint objects can
in occupied Denmark and was later reduced to be studied in the optical, UV and X-ray range with
metal and the medal was recast from it. After his enhanced sensitivity and accuracy. Boksenberg and
escape, he joined the atomic bomb programme. In others have looked particularly at quasars, aiding
1944 he lobbied Roosevelt and Churchill on the understanding of stellar evolution. He became
danger inherent in atomic weapons and the need for director of the Royal Greenwich Observatory in
agreements between the West and the USSR. This 1981; the use of CCDs, and especially his IPCS, has
led to his organizing the first Atoms for Peace revitalized optical astronomy.
Boltwood, Bertram Borden (1870–1927) US radio-
Conference in Geneva in 1955.
At his death in 1962 Bohr was widely acknow- chemist: developed understanding of uranium
ledged as the foremost theoretician of this century decay series.
after Einstein. The Bohr model of the atom gave a Growing up fatherless, but in an academic fa-
good ‘fit’ with the observed spectra only for the sim- mily, Boltwood studied chemistry at Yale and then
plest atoms (hydrogen and helium) and it was much in Munich and Leipzig. From 1900 he operated a
modified later, but the concept was a milestone for laboratory as a consultant on analytical and related
physics and for chemistry. Similarly, the liquid drop problems. From 1904 he worked on radiochemistry,
44
Boole, George

from 1906 at Yale, and became America’s leading
researcher on this. He did much to bring about
understanding of the uranium decay series, to
improve techniques in radiochemistry and to intro-
duce Pb:U ratios as a method for dating rocks. A
good friend of Rutherford, he was a victim of
depression and eventually killed himself.
Boltzmann, Ludwig Eduard [boltsmahn] (1844–
1906) Austrian physicist: established classical sta-
tistical physics; and related kinetic theory to ther-
modynamics.
Boltzmann grew up in Wels and Linz, where his
father was a tax officer. He obtained his doctorate
at Vienna in 1866 and held professorships during
his career at Graz, Vienna, Munich and Leipzig.
Theoretical physics in the 1860s was undergoing
great changes following the establishment by
Clausius and Kelvin of the Second Law of
Thermodynamics, the kinetic theory of gases by
Clausius and Maxwell and the theory of electro- Sir Hermann Bondi in 1959 'on his own beach'.
magnetism by Maxwell. Boltzmann extended the
kinetic theory, developing the law of equipartition
of particle energy between degrees of freedom and the logical positivist philosophers in Vienna, who
also calculating how many particles have a given opposed atomistic theories of phenomena. However,
energy, the Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution. he attracted students who became distinguished
Furthermore, Boltzmann used the mechanics and had both many friends and honours. Depressed
and statistics of large numbers of particles to give by lack of acceptance of his work, Boltzmann killed
definitions of heat and entropy (a measure of the himself while on holiday on the Adriatic coast.
Bondi, Sir Hermann (1919– ) Austrian–British
disorder of a system). He showed that the entropy S
of a system is related to the probability W (the mathematical physicist and astronomer: propo-
number of ‘microstates’ or ways in which the system nent of the steady-state theory for the origin of the
can be constructed) by S = k log W (Boltzmann’s universe.
equation), where k is Boltzmann’s constant Bondi was born in Vienna and had his schooling
(k = 1.38 × 10 –23 JΚ–1). Other contributions were a there, studied at Cambridge, where he held acade-
new derivation of Stefan’s law of black-body radia- mic posts, and in 1954 was appointed professor of
tion; and his work on electromagnetism. mathematics at King’s College, London. From
Throughout his life Boltzmann was prone to 1967–84 he was in the public service (European
depression and this was intensified by attacks from Space Agency, Defence, Energy, Natural Environ-
ment Research Council). He was Master of
Churchill College, Cambridge, 1983–90.
Bondi worked in many areas of theoretical
physics and astronomy, especially the theory of
gravitation (gravitational waves, etc). He is best
known as one of the originators, with Gold and
Hoyle, of the steady-state theory of the universe,
according to which the universe looks the same at
all times. On this basis it is considered to have no
beginning and no end, with matter being sponta-
neously created from empty space as the universe
expands, in order to maintain an unchanging uni-
form density. Although the theory enjoyed support
for a number of years, the discovery of the cosmic
microwave background in 1964 by Penzias and
Wilson gave conclusive support to the rival ‘Big
Bang’ theory. However, in provoking new lines of
discussion, the steady-state theory made an impor-
tant contribution to modern cosmology.
Boole, George (1815–64) British mathematician:
developed mathematical treatment of logic.
Largely self-taught, Boole was a schoolteacher for
a number of years before being appointed professor
of mathematics at Queen’s College, Cork in 1849.
His early work concerned the theory of algebraic
Ludwig Boltzmann
45
Boot, Henry

speed detectors and household cookers. Their use
in cooking originated in someone leaning next to
an open waveguide and finding that chocolate in
his pocket had melted.
Bordet, Jules (Jean Baptiste Vincent) [baw(r)-
day] (1870–1961) Belgian immunologist: a founder
of serology.
Bordet graduated in medicine in Brussels in 1892
and taught there from 1901. While working at the
Pasteur Institute in Paris in 1898 he found that if
blood serum is heated to 55°C its antibodies are not
destroyed but its ability to destroy bacteria is lost.
He deduced that some heat-sensitive component of
serum is necessary, which Ehrlich called comple-
ment. In 1901 Bordet showed that this is used up
when an antibody reacts with an antigen, a process
called complement fixation and of importance in
immunology. Ehrlich thought that each antigen
had its own complement; Bordet thought there was
only one. We now know that the immune system
contains nine varieties of complement, each an
enzyme system which is responsible for the
destruction of a range of pathogens. For this and
George Boole
his other work on immunity, Bordet was awarded
the Nobel Prize in 1919.
Born, Max (1882–1970) German physicist: invented
forms, but it is for his pioneering of the subject of
mathematical logic that he is best known. In 1847 matrix mechanics and put forward the statistical
he developed a form of algebra (Boolean algebra) interpretation of the wavefunction.
that could be used to manipulate abstract logical Max Born was the son of a professor of anatomy at
functions and which for the first time bridged the the University of Breslau and, following the death
hitherto separate disciplines of mathematics and of his mother when he was 4, he was brought up by
formal logic. Boolean algebra was essential to the his maternal grandmother. He studied at Breslau,
development of digital computers from the princi- Heidelberg, ZĂĽrich and Cambridge, gaining his
ples established by Babbage, and has important PhD at Göttingen (1907). He remained there,
applications in other fields such as probability and becoming professor of physics in 1921 and estab-
statistics. lishing a centre of theoretical physics second only
Boot, Henry (Albert Howard) (1917–83) British to the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen. As a Jew
physicist: co-discoverer of the magnetron micro- he left Germany for Cambridge in 1933, becoming
wave generator. a professor in Edinburgh and finally returning in
Boot graduated in physics at Birmingham in 1939 retirement to Göttingen in 1953. In 1954 he was
and continued there in the early years of the awarded the Nobel Prize for physics for his funda-
Second World War, working with J T Randall mental contributions to quantum mechanics,
(1905–84) on microwave generation. It was known together with Bothe.
that radiation in the microwave range (mms up to Initially Born’s research interests were lattice
30 cm) would be suited for radar use, to detect sub- dynamics and how atoms in solids hold together and
marines and aircraft by reflection of radiation, but vibrate. The Born–Haber cycle of reactions allows cal-
a generator of adequate power was not available. Of culation of the lattice energy of ionic crystals.
the several teams directed to attack the problem, However, in 1923 the old quantum theory estab-
Boot and Randall were given the least promising lished by Planck, Einstein, Bohr and Sommerfeld
project and were understandably ‘miffed’. However, remained inconsistent and unable to account for
between 1939 and 1943 they devised the resonant many observations. Broglie then made the star-
cavity magnetron, in which pulsed electrons from tlingly apt suggestion that particles possess wave-like
a central cathode in a magnetic field, confined in a properties (1924) and Born, E P Jordan, Heisenberg
specially shaped and machined cylindrical copper and Pauli in collaboration rapidly developed a
block, generated 10 cm waves and 400 W power: sequence of important ideas. With Jordan, Born con-
one of its end seals was a copper coil, and joints structed (1925) a method of handling quantum
were closed with sealing wax. GEC in the USA devel- mechanics using matrices (matrix mechanics) and
oped this magnetron to 10 kW power. Boot this was the first consistent version of the new quan-
remained in this area of work, but Randall (later Sir tum mechanics. Dirac subsequently took this, and
John) moved into biophysics, afterwards directing the equivalent wave mechanics due to Schrödinger,
the MRC unit at King’s College, London. Microwave and blended them into a single theory (1926).
devices became familiar after the Second World Born also put forward the probability interpreta-
War in telephone communications, and police tion of the wavefunction. In Schrödinger’s wave
46
Boussingault, Jean-Baptiste Joseph

mechanics a particle is represented by a wave of Geiger counters to examine, in an ingenious
packet, which would be expected to disperse in way, single photons and electrons from individual
time. Born’s solution was to state that the wave collisions. This work confirmed that radiation can,
guides the particle in the sense that the square of as predicted, behave like a stream of particles.
the amplitude of the wavefunction is the probabil- He used similar methods in 1929 to show that
ity of finding a particle at that point. Einstein cosmic rays do not consist only of gamma rays, as
opposed a move from deterministic to statistical believed previously, but also contain heavy particles.
physical laws and Born and Einstein discussed the After becoming professor of physics at Giessen in 1930,
issue from time to time over many years. he noted a new uncharged emission from beryllium
Born is buried in Göttingen, where his gravestone bombarded with alpha particles; in 1932 Chadwick
displays his fundamental equation of matrix showed this strange, penetrating emission to consist
mechanics: of neutrons.
pq – qp = h/2πi Bothe led some work in Germany on nuclear
where p is the momentum operator, q the position energy during the Second World War and shared a
operator and h Planck’s constant. Nobel Prize for physics in 1954.
Bouguer, Pierre [boogair] (1698–1758) French
The singer Olivia Newton-John is a grand-daughter
of Born. physicist and mathematician: pioneer of photo-
Borodin, Aleksander Porfiryevich [borawdeen] metry.
(1833–87) Russian chemist and musician. A child prodigy, being appointed teacher of
Trained as a chemist in St Petersburg, Borodin hydrography at Havre at the age of 15, Bouguer is
later travelled in Europe and from 1864 held a pro- chiefly remembered for laying the foundations of
fessorship in the Russian Academy. His work was photometry. He invented the heliometer and later
mainly in organic chemistry, where he devised a photometer with which he compared the lumi-
methods for fluorinating organic compounds in nosities of the Sun and the Moon. He discovered
the 1860s, and he worked on reactions of aldehy- that the intensity of a collimated beam of light in a
des. He showed that both polymerization and con- medium of uniform transparency decreases expo-
densation of aldehydes occurs, and in this way nentially with the length of its path through the
made aldol and, from it, crotonaldehyde. His medium, a result now known as Bouguer’s Law
method for analysing urea was long used by bio- but often incorrectly attributed to J H Lambert
chemists. He is well known as a composer, notably (1728–77).
of the heroic opera Prince Igor and many songs. In geophysics the correction required to adjust
Bose, Satyendra Nath [bohs] (1894–1974) Indian gravity measurements to sea level (approximately
physicist: discovered the quantum statistics of par- 0.1 mgal per metre of rock) is known as the Bouguer
ticles of integral spin. correction, following his work on gravity in the
An education at Presidency College in Calcutta Andes in 1740.
Bourbaki, Nicholas [boorbakee] (c.1930– ) French
led Bose to a lectureship at the Calcutta University
College of Science, and another at the University of group of mathematicians.
Dacca when it was formed in 1921. During his This name was used as a pseudonym by an anony-
research career he made significant advances in mous but eminent club of mainly French mathe-
statistical mechanics and quantum statistics, the maticians. The membership of about 20 was not
description of all forces by a single field theory, X- constant, but undoubtably included several men of
ray diffraction and the interaction of electromag- great creative ability; retirement at age 50 was
netic waves with the ionosphere. required. ‘Bourbaki’ published 33 parts of an ency-
In 1924 Bose derived Planck’s black-body radia- clopedic survey of modern mathematics during
tion law without the use of classical electro- 1939–67.
dynamics, which Planck had needed to use. Bose The treatment was formalized and abstract,
was able to obtain 2 years’ leave for research and required expert mathematical knowledge and was
travel, and in Europe he met Broglie, Born and most influential in its earlier years. The attempt
Einstein. Einstein took up Bose’s work and formed made by the group to persuade their readers that
a general statistics of quantum systems from it (the Bourbaki was a person failed; and the austerity of
Bose–Einstein statistics) which describes particles their work eventually reduced its popularity
of integral spin, which may multiply occupy the among French mathematicians, despite its elegant
same quantum state. Such particles are now known sophistication.
Boussingault, Jean-Baptiste Joseph [boos˜
as bosons. An equivalent statistics for spin- parti- ıgoh]
cles which are limited to one particle per quantum (1802–87) French chemist: pioneer of experimental
state is called the Fermi–Dirac statistics, and the agricultural chemistry.
particles are called fermions. After a school career lacking distinction, Bous-
Bothe, Walther [bohtuh] (1891–1957) German singault entered the École des Mines at Saint-Éti-
physicist. enne and soon after graduation was employed to
A student of Planck at Berlin and a prisoner of direct a mine in Venezuela. During his 10 years
war in the First World War, Bothe taught at three there he travelled and reported on the geology and
German universities before, in 1925, working with geography of the area to the Institut de France, and
Geiger to study the Compton effect, by using a pair on his return was appointed professor of chemistry
47
Boveri, Theodor Heinrich

at Lyon. His main work afterwards was in agricul- In the 1860s Huggins had observed spectral lines
tural chemistry. He showed that legumes (peas, in nebulae that did not correspond to any known
beans, etc) can secure nitrogen from the air (actu- element. In 1928 Bowen was able to explain these as
ally via root bacteria), whereas most plants, and all being due to doubly and triply ionized oxygen and
animals, cannot secure nitrogen from the air and nitrogen atoms, and not to a previously unknown
must obtain it from their food. His work on the element as had been thought. It is the transition
nutritional value of foods opened an area of study from such highly excited atomic states to more
which later led to major discoveries on metabolism stable forms that gives the characteristic red and
and on the vitamins. He found iodine in salt green emission colours of nebulae.
Bowen, Norman Levi (1887–1956) Canadian geolo-
deposits claimed by South American natives to be
curative for goitre, which led him to suggest the gist: used experimental petrology to reveal stages
use of iodine in treatment, but this was not taken in formation of igneous rocks.
up for many years. The son of English immigrants, Bowen entered
Boveri, Theodor Heinrich [boveri] (1862–1915) Queen’s University in Kingston as a student in
German cytologist: did basic work on relation of 1903, and later worked there, at the Geophysical
chromosomes to heredity. Laboratory at Washington, DC, and at Chicago. His
Boveri began his university life as a student of his- main work was in experimental petrology. From
tory and philosophy at Munich, but soon changed to 1915 he studied the crystallization of natural and
science and later taught zoology and anatomy at synthetic minerals under controlled conditions of
Munich and WĂĽrzburg. By 1884 it was known temperature and pressure; and he linked these
(largely from Beneden’s work) that in sexual repro- results with field observations of igneous rocks. He
duction the nuclei of spermatozoon and ovum pro- was able to deduce a crystallization series in which
vide equal numbers of chromosomes in the fusion differentiation occurs through the separation of
which is the central feature of fertilization; that crystals in stages from fused magma. The geo-
the chromosome number is constant for a given chemistry of rock-forming silicates is complex, but
species; and that heredity is dependent on the Bowen’s work allowed the pattern of their behav-
nucleus. Boveri confirmed and extended Beneden’s iour to be understood in general terms and was
work on cell division using the roundworm Ascaris, summarized in his book The Evolution of Igneous Rocks
and went on to study sea-urchin eggs. He was able to (1928).
Boyer, Herbert Wayne (1936– ) US biochemist:
show that embryos that are deficient in chromo-
somes develop abnormally into the new individual developed recombinant DNA technique to synthe-
and that normal development requires not only an size proteins.
appropriate number of chromosomes for the species A graduate of Pittsburgh, Boyer became professor
but a particular selection of chromosomes. This of biochemistry at the University of California at
implied that each chromosome carried in some way San Francisco in 1976. He showed in 1973 that a
certain specific determiners for growth and devel- functional DNA can be constructed from two dif-
opment, and by 1910 it was fairly widely accepted ferent gene sources, by splicing together segments
that the chromosomes are the vehicles of heredity. of two different plasmids from the bacillus
Bovet, Daniel [bohvay] (1907–92) Swiss–French– Escherichia coli (plasmids are deposits of extrachro-
Italian pharmacologist: introduced antihistamines, mosomal DNA found in some bacterial strains). The
and curare-type muscle relaxants for surgery. result of this recombinant RNA technique, known
After qualifying in Geneva, Bovet went to the as a chimera, was then inserted into E. coli and was
Pasteur Institute in Paris, later moving to Rome. In found to replicate and to show traits derived from
Paris he was a member of a group that showed that both the original plasmids. By the late 1970s the
the antibacterial drug Prontosil owed its effect to its method was in use by Boyer and others to give bio-
conversion in the body to sulphanilamide, which is logical syntheses of costly proteins such as insulin
the parent of the sulphonamide group of drugs. and growth hormone.
Boyle, Robert (1627–91) Irish chemist: established
Sulphanilamide was cheap and unpatented, and its
derivatives have been widely used against strepto- the study of chemistry as a separate science and
coccal infections. gave a definition of an element.
Later Bovet found compounds that antagonize The youngest of the 14 children of the first Earl of
the action of histamine; this opened the way to Cork, Boyle was educated by a tutor at home
widespread use of such antihistamines for the (Lismore Castle) and at Eton. He showed an ability
relief of allergic symptoms and related conditions in languages before the age of 8, and in his interest
(such as the common cold). A visit to Brazil began in algebra he found a useful distraction during con-
his interest in the nerve poison curare; later he valescence (he was to suffer ill-health throughout
made simpler synthetic compounds which have a his life). His education was continued with a Grand
usefully short-acting curare-type activity. These Tour of France and Italy (1638–44), accompanied by
have been much used as muscle relaxants in surgi- his brother Francis and a tutor. In Italy he studied
cal operations since 1950. Bovet received a Nobel the work of the recently deceased Galileo. On the
Prize in 1957. death of his father, Boyle retired to live simply on
Bowen, Ira Sprague (1898–1973) US astronomer: his estate at Stalbridge in Dorset, where he took no
explained spectral lines seen in nebulae. part in the English Civil War then raging.
48
Bragg, Sir Lawrence

Educated at Cambridge and a Fellow of the Royal
Society, Boys distinguished himself as a clever and
original experimenter. In 1895 he designed a tor-
sion balance, which was an improvement on previ-
ous models, and with this he determined the value
of Newton’s constant of gravitation, thus arriving
at a value of 5.5270 for the mean density of the
Earth. He invented the micro-radiometer, a combi-
nation of a thermocouple and a delicate suspended-
coil galvanometer, and with it he was able to
measure the heat radiation from the Moon and
planets. He proved that the surface temperature of
Jupiter is low. He used quartz fibres instead of silk
for delicate suspension instruments and obtained
them by shooting from a bow an arrow with the
molten quartz attached. He also designed a
calorimeter to measure the thermal power of coal
gas, and a camera with a moving lens with which
he obtained some remarkable photographs of light-
ning flashes.
Bradley, James (1693–1762) English astronomer:
discovered stellar aberration; obtained first accu-
rate measurement of the speed of light and direct
proof of Earth’s motion.
Bradley was Halley’s successor as Astronomer
Royal. While attempting to observe parallax in the
position of γ Draconis (caused by the Earth’s move-
Robert Boyle
ment across the diameter of its orbit), Bradley
found that the star did indeed appear to move, but
Boyle moved to Oxford in 1654. He worked on an that the greatest contrast was between September
improved air-pump (which Hooke made for him), and March, not between December and June, as
showing for the first time that Galileo was correct would be expected from parallax. He deduced that
in his assertion that all objects fall at the same the movement (aberration) he saw was related to
velocity in a vacuum. His most famous experiment the ratio of the velocity of light to the velocity of the
Earth about the Sun (the latter is about 30 km s–1,
was with trapped air compressed in the end of a
closed shorter end of a U-shaped tube, by the addi- and the ratio about 10 000:1). This discovery
tion of mercury to the open longer end of the tube, allowed him to estimate the speed of light to be
3.083 × 108 m s –1, which is more accurate than
which showed that the volume of air halved if the
pressure was doubled. The work was published Römer’s value. It also gave the first direct evidence
(1660) and became known as Boyle’s Law (in Britain for the Earth’s motion about the Sun. Bradley also
and the USA; credited to Mariotte in France): it discovered nutation, the wobble of the Earth’s axis
states that for a fixed mass of gas at constant tem- caused by the changing gravitational attraction of
perature, the pressure and volume are inversely the Moon due to its slightly inclined orbit. It was
proportional, ie pV = constant. not until Bessel’s work, a century later, that stellar
With the publication of The Sceptical Chymist parallax was observed.
Bragg, Sir (William) Lawrence (1890–1971)
(1661), Boyle prepared the way for a more modern
view of chemistry, which put aside alchemical British physicist: founder with W H Bragg of X-ray
ideas and the Aristotelian doctrine of the four ele- crystallography.
ments. He proposed the notion of elements as Born in Adelaide, W L Bragg studied mathematics
‘primitive and simple, or perfectly unmingled there and at Cambridge, and in 1910 moved his
bodies’ and that elements could be combined to interest to physics. Like his father, he was attracted
make compounds and that compounds could be by von Laue’s observation that X-rays could be dif-
divided into their elements. Later Lavoisier used fracted by crystals. Bragg showed that the condi-
this approach experimentally; but it was Boyle who tion for diffraction by a crystal with lattice planes
(layers of atoms) d apart, for X-rays of wavelength λ
changed chemical attitudes and prepared the way
and angle of incidence θ, is that n λ = 2d sinθ (Bragg’s
for Priestley and Lavoisier to create the Chemical
Revolution. He also believed in the atomic theory Law) where n is an integer. The atomic layers of a
and the importance of the shape of the atoms; his crystal acted as mirrors, reflecting X-rays, with
views here were taken from older writers. Boyle was interference resulting from reflections at different
a founder member of the Royal Society. layers when the angle of incidence met the above
Boys, Sir Charles Vernon (1855–1944) British condition. Using an X-ray goniometer made by the
experimental physicist: ingenious inventor of sen- father (who had taken instruction in instrument-
sitive instruments. making in Adelaide) the pair were able to measure
49
Bragg, Sir William

X-ray wavelengths and then to measure d, the inter- shortly to use these X-ray spectra in a valuable way.
atomic distance, in crystals of diamond, copper, Bragg, with his son Lawrence, went on to examine
sulphur and salts such as KCl (which they found the wavelengths of X-rays by using crystals (see
contained only ions and no molecules). Previously, entry above); their method founded X-ray crystal-
crystallography had been concerned with the lography.
angles at the exterior of crystals; now X-ray crystal- W H Bragg moved to University College London
lography could study their atomic interior. in 1915, worked on submarine detection in the
At 25, Lawrence Bragg was the youngest Nobel First World War, and became director of the Royal
prizewinner, sharing the prize in 1915 with his Institution in 1923. (See panel on carbon for the
father. In 1919 he became professor at Manchester Bragg’s structures for diamond and graphite.)
Brahe, Tycho, Tyge Brahe (Dan) [brah-hoe] (1546–
and in 1938 at Cambridge. He developed methods
whereby X-ray diffraction by crystals (giving on a 1601) Danish astronomer: produced important star
photographic plate or film a pattern of spots whose catalogue; the greatest pre-telescopic observer.
position and intensity could be measured) can be Brahe, son of a nobleman, was brought up by a
used to determine electron density within the crys- childless uncle who effectively kidnapped him,
tal and therefore the position of the atoms. Modern gave him a good education and planned a political
metallurgy, crystallography and molecular biophy- career for him. However, young Tycho at 14 saw the
sics owe much to his methods and to those of his co- partial solar eclipse of 1560 and devoted his life to
workers in Cambridge. Like his father he became astronomy thereafter.
director of the Royal Institution (in 1954), did much Brahe was without doubt the greatest astrono-
to popularize science and was knighted. mical observer of the pre-telescopic era. In 1572 he
Bragg, Sir William (Henry) (1862–1942) British observed a nova (exploding star) in Cassiopeia, the
physicist: discovered characteristic X-ray spectra; first to be visible to the naked eye since 134 bc,
and developed (with his son) X-ray diffraction and demonstrated that it was a ‘fixed’ star and out-
methods for determining crystal structures. side the solar system. (It was brighter than Venus
Bragg is unusual among noteworthy researchers for more than a year.) This was cosmologically
in that his first significant research was done when very important, as it had been believed since
he was over 40. However, he had as co-worker after Aristotle’s time that the stars were eternal and
1912 his son Lawrence (see entry above) and their immovable. His observations made his reputation.
success brought a Nobel Prize in 1915; they are the In 1577 the patronage of the king of Denmark,
only father–son pair to share one. William studied Frederick II, made possible his second great
at Cambridge and did so well in mathematics that achievement. Frederick gave him the island of
he was appointed professor in Adelaide in 1886. Hven as a gift for life, with funds to build the obser-
In 1904 he gave a major lecture on the new subject vatory of Uraniborg; Brahe furnished it with the
of radioactivity and was spurred by this to research best and largest instruments available, many of
on the subject. In 1909 he took up his duties as pro- them designed by himself. He devoted the next 20
fessor at Leeds and there began work on X-rays, years to measuring the positions of 777 stars with
inspired by von Laue’s recent work. unprecedented accuracy, thus providing an invalu-
In 1913 Bragg found that, when X-rays are gener- able body of information for later astronomers,
ated by the impact of high-energy electrons on a particularly Kepler. He was probably the first to
platinum target, the resulting continuous spec- realize that multiple observations (such as he
trum of X-rays contains some lines whose position made) are much superior to single measurements
is characteristic of the metal target. Moseley was in scientific work.




slits



ionization
chamber




θ θ

crystal

The Bragg method for studying the diffraction of X-rays by crystals. A narrow beam of X-rays from the X-ray tube (left)
strikes the crystal; an ionization chamber is used to find the position of the diffracted beam.
50
Braun, Wernher Magnus Maximilian von

crystal detectors in the late 1890s, improved fur-
ther after 1904 by the use of Fleming’s thermionic
valve.
Brattain, Walter (Houser) (1902–87) US physicist:
co-inventor of the transistor.
Born in China, Brattain grew up in the state of
Washington on a cattle ranch, and gained his PhD
in physics at Minnesota in 1929. In the same year he
joined the talented team at Bell Telephone
Laboratories, and soon began work on the surface
properties of semiconductors; at first he used
copper(I) oxide, but during the Second World War
silicon became available, and this and germanium
offered better prospects. Working with Bardeen
and Shockley, and using a mix of theory and exper-
iment, the point-contact transistor was developed
by 1947; it used a thin germanium crystal and both
rectified and amplified current. For many pur-
poses, the days of the vacuum tube or thermionic
valve were numbered and the silicon micro-chip,
smaller, cheaper and requiring less power, moved
towards the dominant place it has held in electron-
Tycho Brahe, wearing the prosthesis in his nose. ics ever since. Brattain was very much a practical
physicist, with a special interest in surfaces. When
he left Bell in 1967, he went on to study the lipid
In 1596 Frederick’s successor, Christian IV, forced surfaces of biological membranes at Whitman
Brahe to leave Hven. After 3 years of travelling he College, where he had once been a student. He
settled in Prague, sponsored by the mad emperor of shared a Nobel Prize with Bardeen and Shockley in
the Holy Roman Empire, Rudolph II. He was given a 1956.
Braun, Karl Ferdinand [brown] (1850–1918)
castle near Prague as an observatory, and acquired
the young Kepler as his assistant; the association German experimental physicist: introduced crystal
was very fruitful, although stormy. Brahe died 2 diodes and the cathode-ray oscilloscope.
years later, leaving Kepler to publish their star cat- Braun studied at Marburg and Berlin and taught
alogue, the Rudolphine Tables, in 1627. Talented, at TĂĽbingen and Strasbourg. In 1874 he found that
energetic, eccentric and quarrelsome, Brahe lost some crystalline semiconductors (eg PbS) could be
most of his nose in a duel when at 19 he fought over used as rectifiers to convert AC to DC. He used this
a mathematical dispute; his false nose, made by from 1900 in his crystal diodes, which made possi-
himself from silver, can be seen in contemporary ble the crystal radio receiver. He also modified a
portraits. The nova of 1572 is known as ‘Tycho’s cathode-ray tube so that its electron beam was
star’ and the best-known of lunar craters is also deflected by a changing voltage; the resulting cath-
named after him. The magnificent Uraniborg ode-ray oscilloscope has been much used in scien-
observatory was destroyed by fire in the Thirty tific work and is also the basic component of many
Years War. It had housed a research community, TV receivers. He shared a Nobel Prize with Marconi
forcefully directed by Brahe, which made it a major in 1909.
Braun, Wernher Magnus Maximilian von
research centre and attracted young astronomers
from all over Europe. [brown] (1912–77) German–US rocket engineer: a
Branly, Edouard Eugène (1844–1940) French pioneer of rockets and space travel.
physicist. The son of a baron and a former Government min-
Branly qualified in physics in Paris and taught the ister, von Braun was educated at the ZĂĽrich and
subject at the Sorbonne from 1873, but he also qual- Berlin Institutes of Technology. In 1932 he started
ified in medicine and practised ‘electrotherapy’ for working on rocket design for the German military,
20 years. In early experiments in 1890 with the developing his first successful liquid-fuel rocket 2
radio waves recently discovered by Hertz, Branly years later. By 1938 he was technical head of the
found that a tube of iron filings (a poor conductor rocket research establishment at PeenemĂĽnde,
for a direct current) became an effective conductor where he was responsible for the V-2 supersonic bal-
when exposed to radio waves. For re-use the listic missile used in the Second World War. At the
‘coherer’ had to be tapped to re-randomize the fil- end of the war he took his entire development team
ings. Improved versions used nickel or silver filings to surrender to the American army. He subse-
in a glass tube with metal end caps. Crude and quently became a major figure in the American
unsatisfactory, the coherer nevertheless had its space programme, designing the Jupiter rocket
place as a radio signal detector for some time, and that put America’s first satellite, Explorer I, into
was used by Rutherford, Lodge and Marconi until orbit in 1958 and being influential in the Saturn
supplanted by receivers with tuned circuitry and rocket that put the first man on the Moon in 1969.
51
Breit, Gregory

Von Braun resigned from NASA in 1972, feeling Brenner’s work involved slicing a worm into up to
that the American government was no longer 20 000 serial sections for electron microscopy in
strongly committed to space exploration. order to define the anatomy of the system and ulti-
It is probable that in 1945 he would have been mately to relate molecular biology to its visible
charged as a war criminal but for his valuable structure and development.
Brewster, Sir David (1781–1868) British physicist:
expertise. There is evidence that he was active in
the brutal treatment of slave labourers at the V-2 discovered polarization by reflection.
launch sites. Trained for the church, Brewster after graduation
Breit, Gregory [briyt] (1899–1981) Russian–US turned to physics. He produced much factual, non-
physicist: made contributions in quantum speculative work on the reflection, absorption and
mechanics and nuclear physics. polarization of light. When light is reflected from a
Breit moved to America at the age of 16 and fin- non-metallic surface, partial polarization occurs.
ished his doctorate at Johns Hopkins University at As the angle of incidence is increased towards a
22. After several years of travelling, with posts at glancing angle the polarization increases, passes
Leiden, Harvard and Minnesota, he gained a posi- through a maximum (the Brewster, or polarization,
tion at the Carnegie Institute, Washington, DC. His angle) and then decreases. Brewster’s Law states
later years were spent at New York, Wisconsin and that the tangent of the Brewster angle is equal to
Yale. With Tuve he measured in 1924 the height the refractive index of the reflecting substance
and density of the ionosphere by reflecting short (1815). The Brewster angle and the angle of refrac-
bursts of radio waves from it, which was essentially tion sum to a right angle.
the first use of radar imaging. Brewster improved the optics of lighthouses,
However, Breit’s major research was in quantum invented the kaleidoscope and helped to found the
mechanics, nuclear physics and the interaction of British Association for the Advancement of Science.
Bridgman, Percy Williams (1882–1961) US experi-
electrons and photons (quantum electrodynamics),
often in collaboration with Wigner. The formula mental physicist: studied effects of very high pres-
giving the absorption cross-section of a nucleus as a sure on materials.
function of energy of incoming particles is known A Harvard graduate, Bridgman stayed there in a
as the Breit–Wigner formula. variety of positions until retirement. Most of his
Brenner, Sydney (1927– ) South African–British research was concerned with very high pressures,
molecular biologist: co-discoverer of triplet nature for which he designed special equipment. He
of genetic codons. showed that most liquids become more viscous
Brenner’s parents had emigrated to South Africa under high pressure and that some solid com-
from Russia and Lithuania. He qualified in medi- pounds (eg ice) and solid elements (eg phosphorus)
cine and medical biology at Johannesburg and then then exist in novel forms. He achieved pressures of
1010 N m–2.
became a research student with Hinshelwood at
Oxford, working on bacteriophage. In 1957 he The Bridgman effect is the absorption or evolu-
joined the Medical Research Council’s Molecular tion of heat when an electric current passes
Biology Laboratory at Cambridge, becoming its through an anisotropic crystal. He was awarded the
director 1979–86. Nobel Prize in 1946.
Briggs, Henry (1556–1630) English mathematician:
In the 1950s Brenner did notable work in showing
that the triplets (codons) of bases in DNA chains, introduced ‘common logarithms’ (ie to base 10).
each of which were believed to code for a specific Educated at Cambridge, Briggs became professor
amino acid destined for protein synthesis, do not of mathematics at Oxford in 1620. Noted for his
form an ‘overlapping’ code. Thus in a sequence ... work on logarithms, which did more than anything
ATCGCATAG ... the codons could be ATC, GCA, TAG to popularize their use, he suggested the decimal
... but not ATC, TCG, CGC.... By 1961 Brenner, Crick base instead of the Napierian or natural base, and
and others had confirmed that codons are triplets undertook the tedious work of calculating and
(and not, for example, quadruplets) and that nei- preparing the tables, which extended to the 14th
ther overlapping nor ‘punctuation marks’ appeared place of decimals. He also introduced the method
to exist in the code. In the same year Brenner and of long division which is in common use. His
others also demonstrated that the ribosomes, which Logarithmical Arithmetic was published in 1624.
Bright, Richard (1789–1858) British physician: pio-
require an instructional code to carry out their task
of protein synthesis, receive it in the form of a spe- neer user of clinical biochemistry.
cial type of RNA, messenger RNA (mRNA). Bright studied and wrote on botany, zoology,
In the 1970s he began intensive studies of the ner- geology and medicine, and travelled widely in
vous system of a type of nematode worm. Although Europe, from Iceland to Hungary. Working there-
less than 1 mm long, its nervous system is complex after as a physician in London, he showed that dis-
and roughly 100 genes contribute to the make-up of ease can in some cases be linked with body
its nervous system, which has about 300 neurones chemistry and with post-mortem findings. He is
and so is usefully intermediate between Escherichia best known for his recognition that kidney disease
coli (1 neurone) and man (1010 neurones). Most (nephritis) is linked with dropsy (accumulation of
mutants of the worm show variations in the fluid in the body) and with the presence of albumin
nervous system which can be informative, and in the urine. The term Bright’s disease was formerly
52
Brooks, Harriet

used to cover the non-suppurative inflammatory Broglie inherited in 1960 on the death of his
renal (ie kidney) diseases that show these symp- brother Maurice (who was also a physicist). The
toms. Bright was also a skilful artist and travel German title Prinz dated in the family from service
writer. to the Austrians during the Seven Years War
Brockhouse, Bertram (Neville) (1918– ) Canadian (1756–63). Broglie studied history at the Sorbonne
physicist. and acquired an interest in science by service at the
Born in Alberta but growing up in Vancouver, BC, Eiffel Tower radio station during the First World
Brockhouse in the 1930s became a radio enthusiast; War. He then took a doctorate at the Sorbonne
many boys did, but Brockhouse was soon more (1924) and taught there as the professor of theoret-
expert than most, and added to his pocket money ical physics at the newly founded Henri Poincaré
by part-time work as a radio repairer. His skills Institute (1928–62).
increased with his war service in the Royal Our ideas concerning quanta stem from Planck
Canadian Navy working with radio and other elec- (1900), and modern ideas on the interaction of
trical devices, followed by a physics degree course matter and energy had begun with Einstein in
at Vancouver. Afterwards he worked for a PhD at 1905. Broglie’s work began with a derivation of
the Low Temperature Lab at Toronto: his work on Wien’s electromagnetic radiation law, based on
light quanta with frequency ν, mass hν/c2 and
neutron scattering began there, in 1951.
Concurrently, Brockhouse and Clifford Shull momentum hν/c (1922). It then occurred to him to
(1915–2001) independently developed inelastic go beyond the idea of waves acting as particles and
neutron scattering, a technique which has proved to suggest that particles can behave as waves. A par-
an invaluable method of probing matter, and par- ticle such as an electron should move at the group
ticles. A neutron beam strikes a target and the scat- velocity of a number of matter waves, which have
wavelength λ = h/m ν. This revolutionary idea
tered neutrons are studied; in particular their
energies are measured. Brockhouse used this appeared in Broglie’s doctoral thesis of 1924, which
method to examine phonons, or lattice vibrational was published as a paper of over 100 pages in
energy quanta within solids, and became the first Annales de Physique in 1925. The waves were detected
and agreement with λ found through the wave
to measure a solid phonon dispersion curve (the
variation of the phonon’s energy with frequency). interference, using the atoms of a crystal lattice as
This work, winning him one half of the 1994 Nobel a diffraction grating. This was done by Davisson
Prize, was carried out at Canada’s Chalk River and Germer using slow electrons (59 eV) and by G P
Nuclear Laboratory during 1950–62. The Prize was Thomson using fast electrons in 1927. The wave-
shared with Shull who developed neutron diffrac- particle duality was used by Schrödinger in his
tion at Oak Ridge National Laboratory during formulation of quantum mechanics, and it also
1946–55. A beam of single-wavelength neutrons began the great debate as to whether there is deter-
hits the target material and produces a diffraction minacy in quantum mechanics. Broglie received
pattern due to the wave (as well as particle) nature the Nobel Prize for physics in 1929.
Brongniart, Alexandre [brõnyahr] (1770–1847)
of matter. The position and magnetic poles of the
atoms can be inferred. French geologist and palaeontologist: pioneer of
From 1962 Brockhouse was professor of physics at stratigraphic geology.
McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, prefer- Brongniart spent some time as an army engineer
ring to work in a relatively small community, in before being appointed, in 1800, director of the
part because he felt it a happier environment than famous porcelain factory at Sèvres, a post he was to
big-city life for his family of six children. hold all his life with considerable success. At the
Broensted, Johannes Nicolaus (1879–1947) Danish beginning of the 19th-c, working with Cuvier, he pio-
physical chemist. neered stratigraphic geology, being the first to use
Broensted qualified in chemical engineering in the fossils contained within a geological stratum to
1897 and then in chemistry in 1902 in Copenhagen. identify and date that layer. In 1811 they published a
He taught there from 1905. He worked mainly in classic study of the geology of the Paris Basin, setting
electrochemistry and reaction kinetics, applying out the Tertiary rocks in order and classifying them
thermodynamics to chemical problems. He is best according to the fossils they contained. Brongniart
known for a definition of acids and bases, due to was also amongst the first to recognize strata con-
him (and independently and concurrently in 1923 taining alternately freshwater and seawater mol-
to T M Lowry (1874–1936) of Cambridge). This, the luscs, and to interpret this as indicating periodic
Broensted–Lowry definition, defines an acid as a changes in sea level, an important discovery.
Brooks, Harriet (1876–1933) Canadian nuclear
substance with a tendency to lose a proton, and a
base as a substance that tends to gain a proton. physicist.
Broglie, Louis-Victor Pierre Raymond, duc Harriet Brooks went to McGill University in
(Duke) de , Prinz (Prince) [broglee] (1892–1987) Montreal and gained a first-class honours degree in
French physicist: discoverer of the wave nature of 1898. She was invited to join Rutherford’s well-
particles. equipped physics research group at McGill, as his
Louis de Broglie was a member of a Piedmontese first graduate student, and gained a master’s
family; in 1740 Louis XIV had conferred on the head degree in 1901; the highest award at that time and
of the family the hereditary title of duc, which the first awarded to a woman at McGill.
53
Broom, Robert

Radioactivity was then a very novel research area, was appointed palaeontologist at the Transvaal
the first radioactive effects having been observed Museum, Pretoria.
by Becquerel in 1896. Brooks studied the ‘radioac- Something of an eccentric (he buried dead
tive substance’ given off by thorium and, using a Bushmen in his garden, exhuming them when
diffusion method, she identified the emanation as decomposed), Broom did much to clarify the classi-
a radioactive gas of relative atomic weight in the fication of the fossil reptiles of Africa. In 1936, at
40–100 range. The method gave a low value for the the age of 69, he turned his attention to hominid
gas, which is an isotope of radon, but it was shown fossils and was almost immediately successful in
that the gas had a significantly lower molecular finding at Sterkfontein a skull of Australopithecus
weight than thorium and so could not be simply a africanus, a hominid first identified by Dart in
gaseous form of thorium. This led Rutherford and 1924. Two years later a small boy brought him the
Soddy to the realization that a transmutation of jaw of another early hominid, Australopithecus robus-
one element to another had occurred; this entirely tus, now believed to have lived about 1–2 million
novel idea was central to the whole development of years ago. These two finds convinced a hitherto
nuclear physics and chemistry. sceptical scientific community of the significance
Later Brooks worked on a comparison of the beta- of Dart’s earlier claim of Australopithecus africanus as
radiations from the elements thorium, uranium, an ancestor of man. In 1947, when over 80, Broom
radium and polonium, and showed it to consist of found a partial skeleton of Australopithecus that
fast negative particles. She spent 1902–03 working included the pelvis, giving the first conclusive
with J J Thomson at the Cavendish Laboratory in evidence that he had walked upright.
Brown, Herbert Charles (1912– ) US chemist:
Cambridge and in a letter to Rutherford in 1903
refers to radioactivity decreasing to one-half of its introduced organoboranes for organic synthesis.
value in about a minute, the first measurement of Brown was born in London, but his family emi-
the half-life of the thorium emanation (radon-220). grated to Chicago in 1914. He obtained a university
Back at McGill Brooks observed the recoil of the education with difficulty, but his talent secured a
radioactive polonium atom, although she attrib- professorship at Purdue in 1947 which he held
uted this phenomenon to volatility of the decay until retirement in 1978. His researches included
product from the polonium; Rutherford recounted studies on carbocations and on steric effects, and
Brooks’s findings in his Bakerian Lecture in 1904. especially on boron compounds. He was co-discov-
Later, this important recoil effect was rediscovered erer of sodium borohydride (NaBH4) and pioneered
by Hahn and others. its use for the reduction of organic compounds;
In 1904 Harriet Brooks moved to Barnard College, and he found a simple way of making diborane
New York City as tutor in physics, and 2 years later (B2H6) and discovered its addition to unsaturated
became engaged to be married to a physicist from organic molecules to form organoboranes. The latter
Columbia. The dean of the college insisted that are of great value in organic syntheses, the sequence
Brooks must resign, saying ‘the good of the College of reactions being known as hydroboration. He was
and the dignity of the woman’s place in the home awarded a Nobel Prize in 1979.
demand that your marriage shall be a resignation’. He shared the Prize with Georg Wittig (1897–
This was common practice at the time and Brooks 1987), also a contributor of a general method useful
debated the decision, but the result of the dispute in organic synthesis: working in Tubingen and
led to her resignation and a broken engagement. Heidelberg, he showed that compounds called
She went to the Curie Institute (1906–07) and phosphorus ylides will replace oxygen in a carbonyl
worked with AndrĂ© Debierne (1874–1949) on the group (C=O) to give the group C=CH2. This ‘Wittig
recoil of radioactive atoms using the radium decay reaction’ has been used in syntheses of the vitamins
series. In 1907 she chose to marry and abandoned A and D, and of the prostaglandins.
Brown, Robert (1773–1858) British botanist: named
her career.
Rutherford said of her that ‘next to Mme Curie cell nucleus, and advanced plant taxonomy.
she is the most pre-eminent woman physicist in the While on service as an army medical officer,
department of radioactivity’. If she had been Brown met Banks and as a result joined the
allowed to combine research work and marriage Flinders expedition to Australia in 1801. This lasted
her work might have been better appreciated. She 5 years; Brown as naturalist collected 4000 plant
died at the age of 56 of a ‘blood disorder’ and it is species and spent 5 years classifying them. In doing
hard to avoid the suspicion that exposure to radia- so he established the main differences between
tion was involved; in the ‘golden age’ of physics its gymnosperms and angiosperms, and he also
hazards were not appreciated. observed an essential part of living cells which he
Broom, Robert (1866–1951) British–South African named the nucleus (1831). In 1827 he noticed that a
physician and palaeontologist: confirmed signifi- suspension of pollen grains in water showed, under
cance of Australopithecus as a hominid and proved the microscope, continuous erratic movement. He
his bipedality. found this also with other small particles (for
After graduating in medicine from Glasgow example, of dyes). He had no explanation for this
in 1889, Broom practised general medicine in Brownian movement, but much later it was recog-
Australia for some years before moving to South nized to be due to the molecular motion of the
Africa in 1897. In 1934 he gave up medicine and liquid; this was the first evidence for the existence
54
Bruno, Giordano

of molecules based on direct observation rather
than on deduction.
Bruce, Sir David (1855–1931) British microbiologist:
investigated undulant fever and sleeping sickness.
Bruce belongs to a tradition of military medical
men who worked on tropical diseases in an age
of colonial concern. He studied medicine at
Edinburgh and joined the Army Medical Service in
1883. The next year he was posted to Malta. There
he studied undulant fever (now called brucellosis)
and in 1886 he isolated the causal bacterium. Later
he and his assistants showed that unpasteurized
goat’s milk carried the infection to the garrison
there, and control followed. Later still it was found
that the same organism caused contagious abor-
tion in cattle and that it can be transmitted by a
variety of animals.
In 1894 Bruce went to South Africa to study
nagana, another disease of cattle, and soon showed
it to be carried by the tsetse fly and to be due to a
trypanosome, a protozoal parasite now named as
Trypanosoma brucei. Soon Bruce and others showed
that the human disease known as African sleeping
sickness (trypanosomiasis) is due to the same
organism, transmitted in the same way by the bite
of the tsetse fly.
In 1912 Bruce was promoted to Surgeon-General
and in the First World War was commandant of the
I K Brunel standing by the checking chains at an
Royal Army Medical College. His research was
attempted launch of the SS Great Eastern in late 1857. Ill
always carried out with his wife, Mary Elizabeth, a
and discouraged, he remarked that his opponents would
skilled microscopist. She shared all his work, like to see him hanged in chains.
including 2 years in a primitive hut in the Zululand
bush studying nagana and a period as theatre nurse
during the siege of Ladysmith, with Bruce as the the square of the size, so a big enough vessel could
surgeon. succeed. He built the Great Western in oak in tradi-
Brunel, Isambard Kingdom [broonel] (1806–59) tional manner, to make an extension to the Great
British civil engineer; pioneer designer of large Western Railway; it made the crossing to New York
steamships. in 15 days in 1838. He designed and built the Great
Brunel revealed a talent for drawing and grasp of Britain, an iron-hulled, screw-driven vessel which
geometry by the age of 6. His father, Sir Marc was then the largest vessel afloat. He went on to
Isambard Brunel (1769–1849), having fled his design the Great Eastern to carry 4000 passengers
native France and the Revolution for America around the world without refuelling. Immense,
before settling in Britain, educated his son in double-skinned with 10 boilers, the ship was beset
England, Normandy and Paris. Brunel joined his with financial and other problems from the start; it
father in his engineering projects and in 1825 was eventually used to lay the Atlantic cable of 1865.
helped him to construct the first tunnel under the The great liners which dominated intercontinen-
Thames (designed for foot passengers but later used tal travel for a century stemmed from Brunel’s con-
by the London Underground). Isambard Brunel fident approach to large-scale ship construction
(Kingdom was his mother’s surname) was a short based on steel.
Bruno, Giordano (1548–1600) Italian philosopher:
man with a commanding presence, an ability to
lead and a capacity for hard work which contri- supporter of the Copernican (heliocentric) system.
buted to his early death. He confessed to self-conceit. Bruno entered but later left the Dominican
In 1830 Brunel won the competition for a design Order, and spoke and wrote supporting radical
for the Clifton Suspension Bridge, his first inde- views on religion, the infinity of space, the motion
pendent work. He was appointed engineer of the of the Earth and the Copernican system. He
Great Western Railway in 1833. He surveyed the travelled widely in Europe, was arrested by the
route, designed tunnels, bridges and the termini at Inquisition (1592) and after a lengthy trial refused
Paddington and Temple Meads, Bristol. Then to recant. Details of the trial have been destroyed,
Brunel turned to the design of steamships to cross but Bruno was burned at the stake in 1600. It is usu-
the Atlantic, the problem being carriage of suffi- ally believed that this event influenced Galileo in
cient fuel for the distance. Brunel realized that favour of recanting when he was similarly charged
capacity for fuel increased with the cube of the with heresy and supporting the heliocentric system
ship’s size; its power requirement increased with in 1633.
55
Buchner, Eduard

that protein in blood serum was important in
immunity.
Buffon, Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte (Count)
de [büfõ] (1707–88) French naturalist and poly-
math: surveyed much of biology and had early
ideas on evolution of species.
Buffon’s mother was wealthy and, despite his
father’s desire that Buffon should study law, it is
likely that he studied medicine and mathematics. A
duel made him leave France in 1730 for 2 years, but
on his return he became active in scientific and
financial circles; he was highly energetic and both
increased his fortune and contributed to most of
the sciences of the time. His range was vast; he
translated Hales and Newton into French, intro-
duced calculus into probability theory, and worked
on microscopy, tensile strength, cosmology and
geology, and the origin of life. His ideas were non-
theological, rational and ahead of their time, if not
always correct. From 1739 he was in charge of the
Jardin du Roi, the natural history museum and
botanical garden of Paris, which he much improved
and enlarged. His vast and beautifully illustrated
G Bruno Natural History (44 vols by 1804) attempted to pro-
vide a survey of the natural world and was much
In 1991 it was suggested that Bruno had an esteemed. In it he noted that animal species are not
important position as a spy. In the early 1580s he fixed but show variation, and he recognized vesti-
was accredited as a chaplain in the French embassy gial features such as the pig’s toes, a contribution
in London, at a time when England saw itself in to later theories of evolution, together with his
grave danger from Catholic conspiracy. Bruno view of ‘common ancestors’ for similar species. He
secured information on Spanish and French devised some eccentric experiments: for example
schemes and reported, under the name ‘Henry to check the legend that Archimedes fired the
Fagot’ to Elizabeth I’s spymaster, Sir Francis Roman fleet with mirrors and the Sun’s rays when
Walsingham, and his espionage overturned the ‘distant by a bowshot’ he used 168 mirrors, and
Throckmorton plot. The truth may never be shown ignited timber at 50 m range.
Bullard, Sir Edward (Crisp) (1907–80) British geo-
with certainty, but it seems likely that Bruno has as
significant a place in the political scene as in science. physicist: made first measurement of geothermal
Buchner, Eduard [bukhner] (1860–1917) German heat flow through the oceanic crust, and proposed
organic chemist: showed that fermentation does dynamo theory for the Earth’s magnetic field.
not require living cells. Bullard served in naval research during the
Buchner’s elder brother Hans (see below), first Second World War, afterwards working in Cam-
interested and guided him in science, succeeding bridge and North America before becoming direc-
so well that Eduard studied botany under Naegeli tor of the National Physical Laboratory, England. In
and chemistry under Baeyer and became the 1964 he was appointed director of the Department
latter’s assistant. From 1893 he was professor at of Geodesy and Geophysics at Cambridge. Bullard
Kiel and, after several moves, at WĂĽrzburg from made the first successful measurements of geo-
1911 until he was killed in action in the First World thermal heat flow through the oceanic crust, estab-
War. lishing that it is similar in magnitude to that of
Until Buchner’s work in 1897, it had been continental crust, and not lower as had been
believed that fermentation required intact living thought.
yeast cells. Buchner tested this view by grinding After the start of the Second World War in 1939
yeast cells with sand and pressing from the mixture he devised a protection for ships against magnetic
a cell-free extract. This extract when added to sugar mines by ‘degaussing’ ships with an applied exter-
solution, caused fermentation to ethanol and CO2 nal current.
much as would yeast cells. The vitalist view was In the late 1940s and 1950s, independently of
defeated. Buchner named the active principle Elsasser, he proposed the dynamo theory for the
‘zymase’. We now call such biological catalysts origin of the Earth’s magnetic field, in which the
‘enzymes’ and recognize that they are proteins, field is generated by the motion of the Earth’s
highly specific in action and involved in nearly all liquid iron core undergoing convection. Providing
biochemical changes. Buchner won the Nobel Prize that there is a small magnetic field to start with,
for chemistry in 1907; he was killed serving as a the movement of the molten iron will set up elec-
major in a field hospital. His brother Hans Buchner tric currents which will in turn generate the
(1850–1902) worked in bacteriology and showed observed magnetic field. In 1965 Bullard was also
56
Burnet, Sir Macfarlane

the first to use computer modelling techniques to Burbidge studied physics in London and after-
study continental drift, finding an excellent fit wards researched in astronomy at Chicago, the
between Africa and South America at the 500- California Institute of Technology, and Cambridge,
fathom (close to 1000 m) contour: a valuable con- before becoming professor of astronomy at the
tribution to what became the theory of plate University of California, San Diego, in 1964. In
tectonics. 1972, on leave, she became director of the Royal
Bunsen, Robert Wilhelm (1811–99) German Greenwich Observatory, then at Herstmonceaux
chemist: wide-ranging experimenter, and pioneer Castle in Sussex. But her high hopes for optical
of chemical spectroscopy. astronomy using the 2.5 m Isaac Newton telescope
Bunsen’s father was librarian and professor of lin- there were frustrated by administrative work as
guistics in Göttingen, and Robert studied chem- well as by poor seeing conditions, and she resigned
istry there before travelling and studying also in after a year and returned to California.
Paris, Berlin and Vienna. He became professor at From 1948 she worked with her astrophysicist
Heidelberg in 1852 and remained there until retire- husband Geoffrey Burbidge (1925– ), and in 1957
ment, 10 years before his death. with Hoyle and W A Fowler (1911–95) they pub-
Bunsen was pre-eminently an experimentalist lished on the formation of atomic nuclei in stars.
with little interest in theory. His first major She had also worked on quasars and gave the first
research did much to support the radical theory, accurate values for the masses of galaxies, based on
due largely to Dumas and Liebig, which held that her own observations of their rotation.
Burkitt, Denis (Parsons) (1911–93) British epi-
organic groups (‘compound radicals’) correspond,
in part, to the simple atoms of inorganic com- demiologist: discovered Burkitt’s lymphoma, a
pounds. He prepared a series of compounds all con- cancer caused by a virus.
taining the cacodyl group (CH3)2As–; and did so Born and educated in Ulster, Burkitt entered
despite their remarkably offensive character. They Trinity College, Dublin to study engineering but
combine a repulsive and persistent odour with tox- changed to medicine and specialized in surgery.
icity and flammability. The presence in all of them Working in Uganda in the 1950s, he discovered the
of the same cacodyl group effectively established type of cancer now known as Burkitt’s lymphoma.
the theory. During this work Bunsen lost the sight This presents as swellings of the jaw, usually in chil-
of an eye and nearly died of arsenic poisoning; he dren of 6–8 years. Burkitt toured Africa to examine
excluded organic chemistry from his laboratory its incidence and found it mainly in areas where
thereafter. malaria is endemic, but no microorganism linked
With his fellow-professor Kirchhoff he dis- with it could be detected initially, so a virus was
covered the use of spectroscopy in chemical analy- clearly a possibility. However, attempts made in
sis (1859) and within 2 years they had discovered London to establish tissue cultures of the cancer
the new elements caesium and rubidium with its cells were unsuccessful until 1964. Then the cells
aid. He devised the Bunsen cell, a zinc-carbon pri- were grown in culture and electron microscopy
mary cell which he used to obtain metals (Cr and showed them to be infected with the Epstein–Barr
Mn) by electrodeposition from solution, and others virus. It seems likely that the lymphoma is caused
(Mg, Al, Na, Ba, Ca, Li) by electrolysis of the fused by a conjunction of factors, including the virus
chlorides. To find the relative atomic mass of these (which is very common, worldwide) and exposure
metals he measured their specific heat capacity (to to malaria.
apply Dulong’s Law) and for this he designed an ice Burkitt was a proponent of high-fibre diets, partly
calorimeter. He was a master of gas analysis, and because some bowel diseases common in developed
used it in many ways, eg his study of Icelandic vol- countries are rare in Africa, where such diets are
canoes and the improvement of English blast-fur- usual.
Burnet, Sir (Frank) Macfarlane (1899–1985)
naces. He was a pioneer, working with Roscoe, in
photochemistry, and for this devised a photometer Australian medical scientist: made studies of virus
and an actinometer. His great interest in analysis and the immune system.
led him to invent many laboratory devices, includ- A graduate in medicine from Melbourne, Burnet
ing the filter pump. The Bunsen gas burner was spent two year-long visits studying bacteriology in
probably devised and sold by his technician, Peter London, and the rest of his career in Melbourne. In
Desaga, and based on one due to Faraday. the 1930s he worked on viruses, where his successes
Bunsen was a great teacher and his lecture included studies on bacteriophages (viruses which
courses were famous; his researches continued attack bacteria) and a method for culturing some
until he was 80. Like Dalton he admitted that he viruses in living chick embryos. This last work led
never found time to marry (although this may have him to the view that an animal’s ability to produce
been because he worked with odorous compounds). antibody in response to an antigen is not inborn,
Emil Fischer’s wife said of him, ‘First, I would like but is developed during fetal life. (Evidence that
to wash Bunsen and then I would like to kiss him this is correct was later found by Medawar.) Burnet
because he is such a charming man.’ also worked on the mode of action and the epi-
Burbidge, (Eleanor) Margaret, née Peachey demiology of the influenza virus, the cholera
(1922– ) British astronomer: leading optical vibrio, polio and Q fever. His clonal selection theory
astronomer. (1951) offered a general scheme explaining how an
57
Bury, Charles

immune system develops the ability to distinguish A student at Marburg and Göttingen, Butenandt
between ‘self’ and ‘non-self’ and initiated both con- later held posts in Danzig, Berlin and TĂĽbingen. His
troversy and further work by others. He shared a work was mainly in the field of sex hormones. In
Nobel Prize with Medawar in 1960. 1929 he isolated the first pure sex hormone,
Bury, Charles [beree] (1890–1968) British physical oestrone, from human pregnancy urine. He also
chemist: little-known theorist on electronic struc- isolated the male hormone androsterone from
ture of atoms. normal human male urine in 1931. These potent
Bohr is usually credited with the feat of giving hormones are present in natural sources only in
the first clear account of the arrangement of elec- small amounts: eg 15 mg of androsterone was iso-
trons in atoms and its relation to chemical behav- lated from 15 000 litres of urine donated by
iour. In fact the first rough suggestion of electron Viennese policemen. Butenandt was awarded the
‘shells’ is due to J J Thomson (1904), and Langmuir Nobel Prize in 1939, but the German government
(1919) gave a more detailed shell model (partly forbade him to accept it. He secured progesterone,
incorrect), which he linked with chemical behav- the mammalian pregnancy hormone (20 mg from
iour. In 1921 Bohr gave a better version, but it was the ovaries of 50 000 sows), in 1934; and later
very brief and was only a limited account (he gives worked on an insect hormone (ecdysone) and other
electronic structures only for the noble gases). insect pheromones. He showed the relation between
Within a month, a concise, clear and complete the above compounds, which are all members of
account was given by Bury (in the Journal of the the steroid group, and did much to establish the
American Chemical Society), who had written his chemistry of this interesting and valuable group.
Buys Ballot, Christoph Hendrik Diederik
paper before he saw Bohr’s. All later accounts use
the Bury scheme. [boyzbalot] (1817–90) Dutch meteorologist:
Bury was an Oxford graduate in chemistry who described the direction of rotation of cyclones.
served 5 years in the First World War. His classic Buys Ballot was appointed professor of math-
paper, written when he was 31, was his first, but he ematics at the University of Utrecht in 1847, and in
went on to study the relation of colour to structure 1854 founded the Netherlands Meteorological
in dyes and the properties of micelles. Again, his Institute. In 1857 he showed that, in the northern
work on dyes appears to have preceded better- hemisphere, winds circulate counterclockwise
known work by others: Bury was a modest man. around low-pressure areas and clockwise around
Butenandt, Adolf Frederick Johann [bootuh- high-pressure ones, a fact now known as Buys
nant] (1903–95) German organic chemist: devel- Ballot’s Law; the situation is reversed in the southern
oped chemistry of sex hormones. hemisphere.




58
C
Cagniard de la Tour, Charles [kanyah(r)] (1777– University of California at Berkeley in 1937. Except
1859) French physicist: discovered critical state of for war work on the atomic bomb, he remained
liquids. there for the rest of his career. His interest in pho-
Cagniard studied at the École Polytechnique, tosynthesis began in Manchester and developed
Paris. He is primarily remembered for his discovery from 1946, when new and sensitive analytical

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