John Cockcroft and George Gamow, c 1930.
3 2 c m
actual image size: 32cm x 24cm

John Cockcroft and George Gamow, c 1930.

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library


Cockroft (1897-1967) (left), and Gamow (1904-1968) independently worked on the disintegration of atomic nuclei. In 1928 Gamow showed how a particle could 'tunnel' through the barrier holding it to the nucleus. Cockcroft realised that the opposite proces might occur: an approaching proton could tunnel into the nucleus and cause disintegration. If only such low-energy protons were required, then building a machine, an accelerator, to provide such protons would become easier. He went on to do this.

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