Harriet Brooks: Pioneer Nuclear Scientist

Type of resource
Harriet Brooks: Pioneer Nuclear Scientist
Harriet Brooks (1876-1933) was one of the first Canadian researchers in the field of radioactivity. Born in Exeter, Ontario, Brooks moved with her family to Montreal in 1894 where she enrolled at McGill University. In 1898, Brooks graduated with a BA in Mathematics and Philosophy. After completing her undergraduate degree, Brooks became the first graduate student in Canada to work under McGill University professor Ernest Rutherford, considered “father of nuclear physics.” Brooks’ graduate work focused on electromagnetism, where she studied the behaviour of electrons. In 1901, she became the first woman to receive a master’s degree from McGill University, and the first woman in Canada to obtain a graduate degree in electromagnetism. Brooks went on to pursue work toward a Doctorate in Physics between 1901 and 1903 at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and Cambridge University. In 1903, Brooks returned to McGill to work again with Rutherford. This is where she made breakthrough discoveries in the field of radiation. She discovered that placing a non-radioactive material in a radioactive chamber caused the material to become radioactive. This discovery was an essential contribution to Rutherford’s theory of radioactivity and radioactive decay, for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1908. Brooks held several additional academic appointments during her scientific career, including working at the Curie Institute in Paris. She eventually married and left research. Her premature death at age fifty-six was probably related to her work with radiation.
Montreal and Kingston
McGill-Queen's University Press
# of Pages
Rayner-Canham, Marelene, and Geoffrey Rayner-Canham. Harriet Brooks: Pioneer Nuclear Scientist. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1992.
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