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About Bertram N. Brockhouse

Bertram N. Brockhouse  1918 - 2003

BertramBrockhouse1Bertram N. Brockhouse, a McMaster University Professor from 1962 until his retirement in 1984, was the first of only two scientists working in Canada to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.  He shared the 1994 Nobel Prize in Physics with Clifford G. Shull of MIT, for the development of neutron spectroscopy as a probe of condensed matter.  As described in the October 1994 press release from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences: “In simple terms, Clifford G. Shull has helped answer the question of where atoms "are" and Bertram N. Brockhouse the question of what atoms "do"”.  Bert was recognized with many other distinctions in his lifetime, including the Order of Canada, Fellowship in both the Royal Society (London) and the Royal Society of Canada, the Oliver Buckley Prize from the American Physical Society, and the CAP Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Physics from the Canadian Association of Physicists.

Bert Brockhouse was a founding member of the Institute for Materials Research at McMaster, the forerunner to the BIMR.  The Institute for Materials Research was renamed the Brockhouse Institute for Materials Research in his honour in 1995. 

Many of his McMaster graduate students have themselves gone on to international prominence, including Mike Rowe (NIST) and Sow-Hsin Chen (MIT), both of whom have been awarded the Shull Prize from the Neutron Scattering Society of America; Eric Svensson (AECL, Chalk River); John Copley and Bill Kamitakahara (both at NIST); and Doug Hallman (Laurentian).

Bert was born July 15, 1918 in Lethbridge, Alberta. He grew up in Vancouver and first worked as a laboratory assistant, and then as a self-employed radio repairman, both in Vancouver and in Chicago. He spent World War II in the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve working as an electronics technician.  He attended the University of British Columbia and graduated in 1947 with his BSc. in Mathematics and Physics.  Bert then moved to the University of Toronto for his MSc. and PhD. studies in experimental physics, graduating in 1950. He moved to the Chalk River Laboratories where he worked from 1950 – 1962 on pioneering the development of inelastic neutron scattering techniques.  Bertram Brockhouse passed away October 13, 2003.