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NSERC prizes - Brockhouse

About the scientist

Bertram Neville Brockhouse

Bertram Neville Brockhouse was born in 1918 in Lethbridge, Alberta. After serving in the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve during World War II, he attended the University of British Columbia, where he graduated with first-class honours in mathematics and physics. He enrolled at the University of Toronto and obtained his PhD in 1950. That same year, Dr. Brockhouse joined the Chalk River Laboratory of Atomic Energy Canada Limited.

At Chalk River Dr. Brockhouse concentrated his efforts on the inelastic scattering of neutrons. Using beams of neutrons the same way as a microscope uses light, he was able to reveal the movement of atoms in condensed matter and thus probe into the mysteries of crystal structures and other solids such as metals, minerals, gems and rocks. By 1958, he had designed and built the final version of a special device to accurately measure inelastic neutron scattering. The creation of this device—known as the Triple-Axis Neutron Spectrometer—evolutionized scientists' ability to chart atomic dynamics and won Dr. Brockhouse the Nobel Prize for Physics some 35 years later.

In 1962, Dr. Brockhouse moved to Hamilton's McMaster University, where as a professor of physics he continued his research and led his students in the creation of another triple-axis neutron spectrometer which was still in use in the mid-1990s. Today, triple-axis neutron spectrometers are used by physicists in laboratories worldwide to study the structure of condensed matter in areas ranging from chemistry and medicine to metallurgy and nuclear power.

Dr. Brockhouse retired to his family's long-time home in Ancaster, Ontario in 1984 and died in Hamilton, Ontario in October 2003 at the age of 85. The Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering supports Dr. Brockhouse's vision of interdisciplinary teamwork and collaboration in Canadian research, and celebrates the excellence he exemplified and inspired.