Friday, 17 December 2010

'Science Spotlight’ 12/12 Lord William George Penney

The Rt Hon. Lord William George Penney, OM, KBE, MA, PHD, DSC, HONFCGI, FIC, FRS
(1909-1991)
A talent for mathematics gained Penney a scholarship to the Imperial College, London were He was awarded the Governor's Prize for Mathematics graduating with First Class Honours in 1929. After two years at the University of Wisconsin he returned to England and obtained a doctorate from the University of Cambridge in 1935, returning to the Imperial College in 1936 as Assistant Professor of Mathematics. Being A specialist in the physics of hydrodynamic waves, he was enlisted by the Home Office and the Admiralty during World War II to assist in the design of the mulberry harbours used during the Normandy landings. As part of the British delegation he then worked at Los Alamos on the Manhattan Project, observing the Trinity test detonation in 1945, the explosion on Nagasaki and assessing the damage after Japan’s surrender. He was appointed an OBE in 1946, When Britain required an atomic bomb to maintain its position in world politics, Penney was assigned the task. The first British nuclear device was successfully detonated off the West Coast of Australia in 1952 earning Penney a knighthood. In 1954 he served on the Board of the Atomic Energy Authority, becoming Chairman in 1964. He was appointed Lord Penney of East Hendred in 1967 and served as Rector of the Imperial College until 1973. The College built and named the William Penney Laboratory after him.

© Arfon Jones 2010. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

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