Saturday, December 25, 2004

Willie the Gardener

Sir William Lawrence Bragg was the youngest recipient ever of a Nobel Prize when he shared the honour with his father Sir William Henry Bragg in 1915. The Nobel Prize was for Physics although both father and son where made Fullerian Professors of Chemistry (William Henry Bragg in 1923, William Lawrence Bragg in 1953).

Excerpt from What Mad Pursuit by Francis Crick (Basic Books, 1988):

"The current Cavendish Professor was Sir Lawrence Bragg (known to his close friends as Willie), the formulator of Bragg's law for X-ray diffraction..... Bragg was one of those scientists with a boyish enthusiasm for research, which he never lost. He also was a keen gardener. When he moved in 1954 from his large house and garden in West Road, Cambridge, to London, to head the Royal Institution in Albemarle Street, he lived in the official apartment at the top of the building. Missing his garden, he arranged that for one afternoon each week he would hire himself out as a gardener to an unknown lady living in The Boltons, a select inner-London suburb. He respectfully tipped his hat to her and told her his name was Willie. For several months all went well till one day a visitor, glancing out of the window, said to her hostess, 'My dear, what is Sir Lawrence Bragg doing in your garden?' "

(with thanks to Pastor Doug Kramer)

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