Royal Society of Edinburgh celebrates CTR Wilson

The work of one-time Sidney Fellow and Nobel-Laureate CTR Wilson is being celebrated at Conference in Edinburgh.

Charles Thomson Rees (CTR) Wilson is to date the only Scot to have won the Nobel Prize for Physics, which he was awarded in 1927. His work is being honoured at a conference at The Royal Society of Edinburgh, reports BBC News.

Wilson was trained in Sidney's own lab, under the tutelage of Francis Henry Neville and E H Griffiths. Like Griffiths, Wilson came to Sidney via Owen's College in Manchester, taking a double first in natural sciences in 1892, before becoming a Fellow of Sidney Sussex in 1900. 

Famously inspired by watching the weather during a fortnight on Ben Nevis, Wilson's pioneering work was carried out at the Cavendish laboratories in Cambridge. There he put into good use his training from Neville and Griffiths, designing his own cloud chambers to study the formation of clouds and rain in controlled laboratory conditions. He observed the process by which water would condense on any charged nuclei in the chamber and photographed the tracks of tiny liquid droplets, which indicated the path of the radiation through the vapour.

The work transformed experimental physics. Ernest Rutherford, credited with being the first scientist to 'split the atom', later said that the Wilson chamber was the most original apparatus in the history of physics.

Sidney Sussex's natural science society is named in Wilson's honour.

This article is based on information from Richard Humphreys' "Sidney Sussex: A History". You can read more about Wilson's scientific achievements at the official Nobel Prize website, where you can read the text of Wilson's acceptance speech and watch a video of Wilson and his wife Jessie arriving at their hotel in Stockholm.

This is an archived news story, first posted in 2012.

For further information please contact the Fellow Communications Officer, Dr Tom Lambert (

News item posted Sunday, 3rd May 2015

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