Cockroft and Walton's Accelerator

Made:
1932 in Cambridge
maker:
John Douglas Cockcroft
and
Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton

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Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Portion of the original apparatus used by Drs. Cockcroft and Walton for the artificial disintegration of the elements by swift protons, including accelerating tube and fittings, discharge tube, target and cap carrying mica window. The observing cabin and microscope are not original.

In April 1932, at Cambridge, John Cockcroft (1897-1967) and Ernest Walton used this machine to accelerate protons to disintegrate lithium nuclei. In 1928 Gamow had explained, using quantum mechanics, how a particle escaped from a nucleus by tunnelling out through the barrier holding it in. Cockcroft realised that comparatively low-energy particles might be able to tunnel into a nucleus, causing it to disintegrate. They built this accelerator to prove it, and received the Nobel Prize in 1951.

Details

Category:
Nuclear Physics
Object Number:
1933-501
Materials:
glass, lead, lithium, metal and wood
type:
particle accelerator and particle accelerators
taxonomy:
  • built environment - hierarchy name
  • single built work- hierarchy name
  • research structure
credit:
Cavendish Laboratory (University of Cambridge)