Harriet Brooks General Physics, Subatomic Particles, Optics, Biophysics, Theoretical Physics

Canada’s first female nuclear physicist

The Story

Brooks graduated from McGill University, Montreal, in 1898, with a BA in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. In 1899, she began research with Ernest Rutherford, the famous English physicist. He encouraged her and, in 1901, she became the first woman to study at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University, England, where she earned her MA. For a brief period she also worked at Marie Curie’s lab in France. A year later, Brooks returned to McGill to continue her research with Rutherford. She was the first person to realize that one element can change into another. She was also among the early discoverers of radon and the first researcher to attempt to determine its atomic mass.

Sources: Bridges June/July 1989 pg. 15; Women in Science, 1986


The Person

July 2, 1876
Exeter, Ontario
Date of Death
January 1, 1933
Last Updated
September 7, 2021

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