Charles Galton Darwin

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Not to be confused with the illustrious naturalist Charles Darwin, Charles Galton Darwin's grandfather.
Sir Charles Galton Darwin
Charles G. Darwin, Bain News Service photo portrait.jpg
Charles Galton Darwin (1887–1962)
Born Charles Galton Darwin
(1887-12-18)18 December 1887
Cambridge, England
Died 31 December 1962(1962-12-31) (aged 75)
Cambridge, England
Nationality English
Fields Physicist
Institutions National Physical Laboratory
Victoria University of Manchester
Royal Engineers
Christ's College, Cambridge
California Institute of Technology
University of Edinburgh
Manhattan Project
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Academic advisors Ernest Rutherford
Niels Bohr
Known for Darwin–Fowler method
Darwin term of the Hamiltonian
Darwin Lagrangian
Notable awards Royal Medal (1935)
Fellow of the Royal Society[1]
Notes
He was the grandson of Charles Darwin and son of George Howard Darwin. he was the brother of Gwen Raverat and brother-in-law of Geoffrey Keynes.

Sir Charles Galton Darwin, KBE, MC, FRS[1] (18 December 1887 – 31 December 1962) was an English physicist, the grandson of Charles Darwin. He served as director of the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) during the Second World War.[2]

Early life[edit]

Darwin was born in Cambridge, England into a scientific dynasty, the son of the mathematician Sir George Howard Darwin and the grandson of Charles Darwin. His mother was Lady Darwin, Maud du Puy of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His elder sister was the artist Gwen Raverat, and his younger sister Margaret married Geoffrey Keynes, the brother of the economist John Maynard Keynes. His younger brother William Robert Darwin was a London stockbroker. Darwin was educated at Marlborough College and, in 1910, he graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge in mathematics.

Career[edit]

He secured a post-graduate position at the Victoria University of Manchester, working under Ernest Rutherford and Niels Bohr on Rutherford's atomic theory. In 1912, his interests developed into using his mathematical skills assisting Henry Moseley on X-ray diffraction. His two 1914 papers on diffraction of X-rays from perfect crystals became often cited classics.

On the outbreak of World War I, he was commissioned and sent to France as a censor. A year later William Lawrence Bragg had him transferred to the Royal Engineers to participate in the work on the localization of enemy artillery by sound ranging.[3] When that was on a sound footing he was transferred to the RAF to study airplane noise. From 1919 to 1922 he was a lecturer and fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge where he worked with R.H. Fowler on statistical mechanics and, what came to be known as, the Darwin–Fowler method. He then worked for a year at the California Institute of Technology before becoming Tait Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh in 1924, working on quantum optics and magneto-optic effects. He was the first in 1928, to calculate the fine structure of the hydrogen atom under P.A.M. Dirac's relativistic theory of the electron.

In 1936 Darwin became master of Christ's College, beginning his career as an active and able administrator, becoming director of the National Physical Laboratory on the approach of war in 1938. He served in the role into the post-war period, unafraid to seek improved laboratory performance through re-organisation, but spending much of the war years working on the Manhattan Project coordinating the American, British, and Canadian efforts.

He was appointed KBE in 1942; he was cremated at Cambridge Crematorium on January 4, 1963. He and his late wife are commemorated with a memorial at St. Botolph's Church, Cambridge.

Private life[edit]

In 1925 he married Katharine Pember, a mathematician and daughter of Francis William Pember. They had four sons and a daughter:

In his spare time, Darwin also served as a wartime vice-president of the Simplified Spelling Society.[4]

On his retirement, his attention turned to issues of population, genetics and eugenics. His conclusions were pessimistic and entailed a resigned belief in an inevitable Malthusian catastrophe, as described in his 1952 book The Next Million Years. He first argued in this book that voluntary birth control (family planning) establishes a selective system that ensures its own failure. The cause is that people with the strongest instinct for wanting children will have the largest families and they will hand on the instinct to their children, while those with weaker instincts will have smaller families and will hand on that instinct to their children. In the long run society will consist mainly of people with the strongest instinct to reproduce. This would ultimately have dysgeneic effects.[5]

In later years he travelled widely, an enthusiastic collaborator across national borders and an able communicator of scientific ideas. He died in Cambridge and is buried in St Botolph Church's Mill Road Cemetery, Cambridge.


References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Thomson, G. P. (1963). "Charles Galton Darwin. 1887-1962". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 9: 69–26. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1963.0004.  edit
  2. ^ O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Charles Galton Darwin", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews .
  3. ^ Van der Kloot,W. (2005). "Lawrence Bragg's role in the development of sound-ranging in World War I." Notes Rec. R. Soc. Lond. 59: 273-284.
  4. ^ "The Simplified Spelling Society Officers and Committee Members". The Spelling Society. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  5. ^ Carl Jay Bajema (ed) Eugenics. Then and Now, Dowden, Hutchinson, & Ross Inc. , 1976, p. 294-298.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Norman McLean
Master of Christ's College, Cambridge
1936–1939
Succeeded by
Charles Earle Raven
Government offices
Preceded by
William Lawrence Bragg
Managing Director of the National Physical Laboratory
1938–1949
Succeeded by
Edward Bullard