Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

2014 Edition
| Editors: Thomas Hockey, Virginia Trimble, Thomas R. Williams, Katherine Bracher, Richard A. Jarrell, Jordan D. MarchéII, JoAnn Palmeri, Daniel W. E. Green

Aston, Francis William

Reference work entry

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...

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Selected References

  1. Aston, F. W. (1919). “The Constitution of the Elements.” Nature 104: 393.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. — (1922). Isotopes. London: Edward Arnold and Co.Google Scholar
  3. Nobel Foundation (1964). Nobel Lectures: Chemistry, 19221941. Amsterdam: Published for the Nobel Foundation (1964) by Elsevier Publishing Co.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New Mexico TechSocorroUSA