Irish physicist who, with Sir John Cockcroft, was responsible for the first experimental splitting of the atomic nucleus. For this they received the 1951 Nobel Prize for Physics.
The son of a clergyman, Walton studied at the Methodist College, Belfast, and (from 1922 to 1926) at Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated in mathematics and experimental science. In 1927 he went to Cambridge University on a research scholarship. It was here, working under Lord Rutherford in the Cavendish Laboratory, that he collaborated with Cockroft in experiments with accelerated charged particles. In 1932 they demonstrated that lithium nuclei could be transformed into two helium nuclei by the impact of protons.
Walton became a fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, in 1934 and from 1947 to 1974 was Erasmus Smith's Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy. In 1974 he became a Fellow emeritus. His other research interests included work on hydrodynamics and microwaves.
Subjects: Science and Mathematics — Contemporary History (Post 1945).