William Lawrence Bragg, widely known as Lawrence Bragg, was born in Adelaide, 31 March 1890, and was educated at St Dominic’s Priory School and Queen's School, followed by St. Peter’s College. He was brilliant at mathematics and languages and was promoted well ahead of his age group. Lawrence entered the University of Adelaide aged only 15. He enrolled for honours in 1908 and graduated B.A with first-class honours in Mathematics. He took to solitary pursuits such as shell collecting and discovered a new cuttlefish, Sepia braggi, at Glenelg.
Following his father William Henry Bragg’s appointment to the University of Leeds in 1909, Lawrence moved with the rest of his family to the UK. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, to study mathematics and then physics, completing his degree with first-class honours. Home for summer holidays, he discussed with his father the new German experiments that showed that X-rays could be diffracted by a crystal: a wave phenomenon. They tried unsuccessfully to explain the result with his father's particle X-ray model. Back in Cambridge, Lawrence correctly explained the German results and enunciated 'Bragg’s Law', while his father developed a spectrometer which Lawrence was able to use to determine simple crystal structures.
From mid-1913 Lawrence worked together with his father to determine the structure of diamonds and other crystals. Lawrence found Cambridge facilities inadequate and, as John Jenkin highlights, his father was receiving most of the credit for their discoveries; nevertheless, he pushed on. In 1914 he was appointed lecturer and fellow of Trinity College. During the First World War Lawrence was sent to France to develop British sound-ranging, the location of German guns by recording the sound of their firings. In 1915 he was notified that he had won the Nobel Prize for Physics, together with his father, William Henry Bragg, for their invention of X-ray crystallography.
After the war Lawrence returned to Cambridge but was soon appointed to the Langworthy Professorship of Physics at Manchester. In 1921 Lawrence was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, and in December married Alice Hopkinson after her Cambridge graduation.
Throughout the rest of his life, Lawrence continued to be a prominent figure in English science, holding a number of positions, including the Directorship of the National Physical Laboratory and the Cavendish Chair at Cambridge, hwere he led an especially successful group in determining the structure of complex proteins, notably DNA and haemoglobin. He was also appointed Director of the Royal Institution in 1953, where he was particularly successful in communicating science to young people. William Lawrence Bragg died, aged 81, in July 1971.
|References||BRAG00073, "A Chronology: William Henry Bragg (1862-1942) and William Lawrence Bragg (1890-1971)" by John Jenkin, in the publication to accompany the exhibition "Bragg about Adelaide" at the South Australian Museum, 2005, Series 2, John Jenkin's William H. Bragg and William L. (Lawrence) Bragg Research Collection, Barr Smith Library, The University of Adelaide, Australia.|