Henry Edmison Duckworth General Physics, Subatomic Particles, Optics, Biophysics, Theoretical Physics

Determined precise atomic mass by greatly increasing resolution of the mass spectrometer

The Story

Duckworth's career as a physicist started in teaching. He became interested in science when teaching high school physics, went back to university to study it in depth. He was able to determine precise atomic mass by using mass spectrometers with greatly improved resolution, providing evidence for sudden changes in nuclear stability corresponding to modern nuclear shell theory. This was fundamental for understanding nuclear chemistry and the transmutation of the elements. He also discovered the last stable isotope (platinum).

In 1958, Duckworth wrote the first definitive text in English, Mass Spectroscopy, which was followed in 1960 by Electricity and Magnetism. He was a tireless administrator, creating several programs at universities and at the National Research Council. He served as president of the University of Winnipeg (1971-1981) and chancellor of the University of Manitoba.

Duckworth released his autobiography, One Version of the Facts: A Life in the Ivory Tower, in 2000.

Sources: Modern Men of Science, 1966-68; Canadian Who's Who 1993.

The Person

November 1, 1915
Brandon, Manitoba
Physicist; former Chancellor and Professor Emeritus of Physics
University of Manitoba
  • BA, University of Manitoba, 1935
  • BSc (Botany), University of Manitoba, 1936
  • PhD (Physics), University of Chicago, 1942
  • SUNAMCO Medal of International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, 1992
  • Officer, Order of Canada, 1976
  • Tory Medal (Royal Society of Canada), 1965
Last Updated
October 16, 2001

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