Aston, Francis William
BornBirmingham, England, 1 September 1877
DiedCambridge, England, 20 November 1945
English physicist William Aston is best known for the invention of the mass spectrograph to measure accurate masses of the atoms of individual isotopes of many elements. He is known within astronomy particularly for the demonstration that one helium atom is about 0.1 % less massive than four hydrogen atoms, thus making clear the potential of hydrogen fusion as a stellar energy source.
Aston was rare among scientists in that he chose to work both inside and outside academic circles, and through this choice he achieved great success. He began his early education at Harborne Vicarage School and Malvern College, and then entered Mason College, Birmingham, as a student of physics and chemistry in 1894. During his time at Mason College, Aston had the opportunity to study with the eminent physicist John Poynting and other notable scientists of the day.
In an interesting career choice, Aston took a position in...