Henry Moseley

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Henry Moseley

Henry Gwyn Jeffreys Moseley (November 23, 1887 – August 10, 1915) was an English physicist and chemist. His main contribution to science was the quantitative justification of the concept of atomic number by the Moseley Law. In advanced chemistry he provided fundamental support for Bohr’s atomic model defined in detail by Rutherford and Antonius van den Broek, mentioning that atomic nuclei contain positive charges equal to their atomic number.

By indication of the latter he studied the X-ray spectra of fifty elements and in 1912 he discovered his law of atomic numbers, according to which the square root of the frequency of the X-rays produced when an element is bombarded with cathode rays is proportional to the atomic number of the element.

Henry_Moseley’s Biography


Moseley was born in Weymouth, on the south coast of England in 1887. His father was a naturalist, professor of Anatomy at Oxford and a member of the Challenger Expedition. After studying at Eton, in 1906 he entered the Trinity College of the University of Oxford, and after graduating from the institution in 1910 he went to the University of Manchester to work with Ernest Rutherford. During his first year in Manchester, he had a complete teaching load, but after this year he began to have more and more time to devote himself to science.

Period of war

In 1914 he left Manchester to return to Oxford with the aim of continuing his research career, but World War I changed his intentions and enlisted in the Royal Engineers division. He was sent to Gallipoli where, on August 10, 1915, during the battle of Gallipoli he was hit in the head by a sniper while he was telegraphing an order. Many historians believe that his work was already worthy of a Nobel Prize, although this award is only granted to living researchers. It has been speculated that the death of Moseley is the reason why the English government during the Second World War and up to the present prohibits the enlistment of important scientists in the army in time of war.

Moseley died when he was only twenty-seven years old. In the opinion of many scientists, if he had lived longer, he could have contributed to the more detailed knowledge of the structure of matter. As Niels Bohr once said in 1962, “You can see today that Rutherford’s work on the atomic nucleus had not been taken seriously. Nor would we have understood it today if we had not had Moseley’s investigations ».

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