Cavendish Laboratory

The Cavendish Laboratory is the University of Cambridge's Department of Physics, and is part of the university's School of Physical Sciences. It was opened in 1874 as a teaching laboratory and was initially located on the New Museums Site, Free School Lane, in the centre of Cambridge. After perennial space problems, it moved to its present site in West Cambridge in the early 1970s. Physical Chemistry (originally the department of Colloid Science under Eric Rideal) left the Cavendish site earlier, subsequently locating with chemistry in Lensfield Road.

The current head of the Cavendish is Peter Littlewood. The Cavendish Professorship of Physics is currently held by Sir Richard Friend.

The Department is named after Henry Cavendish, a famous physicist, and a member of the Dukes of Devonshire branch of the Cavendish family. Another family member, William Cavendish, 7th Duke of Devonshire, was Chancellor of the University, and he gave money to endow the laboratory in memory of his learned relative.

As of 2006, 29 Cavendish researchers have won Nobel Prizes. [ [] — Nobel Prize Winners who have worked for considerable periods of time at the Cavendish Laboratory]

Nuclear physics

In World War II the laboratory carried out research for the MAUD Committee, part of the British Tube Alloys project of research into the Atomic Bomb. Researchers included Nicholas Kemmer, Allan Nunn May, Anthony French, and the French scientists including Lew Kowarski and Hans von Halban. Several transferred to Canada in 1943; the Montreal Laboratory and some later to the Chalk River Laboratories.

The production of plutonium and neptunium by bombarding uranium-238 with neutrons was predicted in 1940 by two teams working independently: Egon Bretscher and Norman Feather at the Cavendish and Edwin M. McMillan and Philip Abelson at Berkeley Radiation Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.


The Cavendish Laboratory has had an important influence on biology, mainly through the application of X-ray crystallography to the study of structures of biological molecules. Francis Crick already worked in the Medical Research Council Unit, headed by Max Perutz and housed in the Cavendish Laboratory, when James Watson came from the United States and they made a breakthrough in discovering the structure of DNA. For their work while in the Cavendish Laboratory, they were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962, together with Maurice Wilkins of King's College London, himself a graduate of St. John's College, Cambridge.


Areas in which the Laboratory has been very influential since 1950 include:-

* Shoenberg Laboratory for Quantum Matter [] (under Gil Lonzarich);
* Superconductivity Josephson junction (under A Brian Pippard);
* Theory of Condensed Matter, which is the dominant theoretical group.
* Electron Microscopy (under Archie Howie);
* Radio Astronomy (under Martin Ryle and Antony Hewish), with the Radio Astronomy Group's telescopes being based at Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory
* [ Semiconductor Physics]

Nobel Prize winning Cavendish researchers

* Lord Rayleigh (Physics, 1904)
* Sir J.J. Thomson (Physics, 1906)
* Lord Rutherford (Ernest Rutherford) (Chemistry, 1908)
* Sir Lawrence Bragg (Physics, 1915)
* Charles Barkla (Physics, 1917)
* Francis Aston (Chemistry, 1922)
* Charles Wilson (Physics, 1927)
* Arthur Compton (Physics, 1927)
* Sir Owen Richardson (Physics, 1928)
* Sir James Chadwick (Physics, 1935)
* Sir George Thomson (Physics, 1937)
* Sir Edward Appleton (Physics, 1947)
* Lord Blackett (Patrick Blackett) (Physics, 1948)
* Sir John Cockcroft (Physics, 1951)
* Ernest Walton (Physics, 1951)
* Francis Crick (Physiology or Medicine, 1962)
* James Watson (Physiology or Medicine, 1962)
* Max Perutz (Chemistry, 1962)
* Sir John Kendrew (Chemistry, 1962)
* Dorothy Hodgkin (Chemistry, 1964)
* Brian Josephson (Physics, 1973)
* Sir Martin Ryle (Physics, 1974)
* Antony Hewish (Physics, 1974)
* Sir Nevill Mott (Physics, 1977)
* Philip Anderson (Physics, 1977)
* Pjotr Kapitsa (Physics, 1978)
* Allan Cormack (Physiology or Medicine, 1979)
* Sir Aaron Klug (Chemistry, 1982)
* Norman Ramsey (Physics, 1989)


External links

* [ Cavendish Laboratory website]
* [;xx=692;yy=590;mt=c;sx=4;tl=Department%20of%20Physics%3B%20Cavendish%20Laboratory;gf=png Location of the Cavendish Laboratory] on the University map and [,0.092488&spn=0.001538,0.004962 on Google maps]
* [ Cavendish history]
* [ History of the laboratory]
* [ A history of the Cavendish laboratory, 1871-1910]

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