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Physicist's death changed war policy

Nature volume 524, page 415 (27 August 2015) | Download Citation


Just over 100 years ago, on 10 August, the 27-year-old British physicist Henry Moseley was killed in the First World War at the battle of Gallipoli. His work on the X-ray spectra of atoms had already explained the basis of Dmitri Mendeleev's periodic table of the elements, laying the foundations for the interpretation of chemistry through atomic structure.

Ernest Rutherford, who discovered the atomic nucleus, wrote an obituary of Moseley (Nature 96, 33–34; 1915) that may have helped to permanently change government policy on enlisting prominent scientists for combat duty. Even in the heat of war, Germany, too, lamented Moseley's death, such was his contribution to science (K. Fajans Die Naturwissenschaften 4, 381–382; 1916).

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  1. National Chung-Hsing University, Taiwan.

    • Min-Liang Wong


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Correspondence to Min-Liang Wong.

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