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Learn About the Life of Physicist Henry Moseley

written by: Cameron Burry • edited by: Amanda Grove • updated: 1/19/2015

Henry Moseley was a physicist who made many important contributions to the world of science. Learn more about his amazing life and discoveries in this article.

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    Who Was Henry Moseley?

    Henry Moseley Henry Gwyn Moseley was an English-born physicist who, among other breakthroughs and innovations, created the concept of the atomic number, the number attached to each and every periodic element. Moseley was also a respected soldier during World War I and was in line for the Nobel Peace Prize for Physics in 1916. However, he never was awarded the prize because he died in combat in 1915.

    Learn more about the effect Moseley has had on modern science by observing his breakthroughs and facts about all of his many various discoveries and ideas. His important work impacts all of our lives.

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    The X-Ray Spectra

    During his study at the University of Manchester, Moseley discovered that certain chemical elements appeared differently under the light of a diffracted crystal. This promoted him to be the first scientific mind to hypothesize the possibility of X-Ray vision. In fact, his discoveries did much to promote research into current X-Ray machines. The X-ray spectra is a different way of looking at something in that it bypasses the material and goes right to what is underneath. This allows the viewer to see what something is under the surface.

    However, his original hypothesis was primarily about the possibility of being able to see through solid objects directly by using a certain type of crystal diffraction. Though this research was ended prematurely because of his early death, Moseley’s initial research has been used in medical equipment and scientific equipment alike.

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    Early History

    Henry Moseley was born in 1887 to Henry Nottidge Moseley and his wife. He lived in his home town of Weymouth, Dorset in England until 1906, when he entered Eton College to study science. He graduated in four years and immediately was accepted into the University Manchester where he would further study physics.

    Basic Facts

    • Birthday- November 23rd 1887
    • Father- Henry Nottidge Moseley
    • Mother- Unknown
    • Country of Origin: England
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    Professional Life

    Henry Mosely enlarged Moseley was a hot candle; he burned fast and studied hard in the few years he was able to seriously study his subject matter. After graduating, Moseley obtained a position as a graduate research assistant under Rutherford in 1910.

    In 1913, Moseley spent time researching the x-ray spectrum of various elements and how this related to atomic numbers. Before his research the atomic numbers had been thought of as arbitrary sequential numbers to list the elements in a simple way. Moseley discovered that atomic numbers of elements have a firm experimental basis from the physics of their X-ray spectra. However, before he was able to study the more intricate matters of the atomic numbers, Moseley decided to enlist in the King’s Royal Army as an engineer to help the fight against the Germans during World War I.

    Professional Facts

    • Occupation- Physicist/Engineer
    • Rank in Military- Officer of Engineers
    • Colleges Attended- Eton College; Trinity College; University of Manchester; Oxford University
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    The Future

    Moseley intended to continue his research on the X-ray spectra as well as his research on many other topics, which were found in the research papers that he drafted during his term as a teaching assistant.

    Moseley wanted to be a part of something larger than his means. Because he was elevated quickly through the ranks of the academic world, many thought of Moseley as a prodigy. Even his father pressured him to remain in the scientific field rather than enlist into the military like many current college engineers were doing. However, with a staunch loyalty to his country, Moseley wanted to fight for his country and do whatever he could to win World War I by playing his part.

    During his time as an engineer, he wrote several other papers about the possibilities of the x-ray spectrum, but none of this research was even materialized. After the war, Moseley planned on returning to school to become a full professor and continue his research on many various topics. He was thought to be a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize in physics in 1916 because of his already popular and widely praised breakthroughs in the atomic element field. Moseley never got married, because he was very dedicated to his work, often stating that his work was his bride.

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    "Single Greatest Individual Death..."

    Moseley enlisted in 1914 to be an engineer in the King’s Army. Because of his prodigy status and his highly decorated educational history, Moseley was given the immediate rank of an officer in the military. He served as a technical communications officer and was dispatched to fight in the “Battle of Gallipoli" in Turkey. He was dispatched in early April of 1915 where he fought against the Ottoman Empire soldiers until August of the same year where he was killed in action. Reports say that a Turkish marksman shot Moseley while Moseley was telecommunicating a dispatch order. Because of his early death, some historians say that his death was the single greatest individual death of World War I because of what he could have accomplished.