Sir George was the son of Sir J J Thomson, Professor of Physics at the University of Cambridge, who had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1906 for his work on the conduction of electricity in gases.

Sir George left The Perse in 1910 and went to read Mathematics and Physics at Trinity College, Cambridge, until his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of war in 1914. During the war he served in the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment and rose to the rank of Captain.

After the war, he spent three years as a Fellow at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and had a successful academic career, with posts at Cornell University, Imperial College London, and the University of Aberdeen. It was at Aberdeen where he carried out experiments on the behaviour of electrons and showed that they behaved as waves, despite being particles. This discovery led to him being jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1937 along with C J Davisson, who had arrived at the same conclusions via a different method.

In the late 1930s and throughout the Second World War, Sir George specialised in nuclear physics, and was the chairman of the 1940-41 MAUD Committee, that concluded the feasibility of the atomic bomb.

Sir George was awarded a knighthood in 1943, and became Master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge in 1952.

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