Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The son of a Jewish businessman, he studied nuclear physics under the tutelage of Werner Heisenberg and Wolfgang Pauli. His early work on quantum physics led to the theory of positive carriers to explain the thermal and electrical conductivity behaviors of semiconductors. He moved to Birmingham, England when Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany. In 1939, he started working on atomic research with Otto Frisch and James Chadwick. In 1940, he wrote with Frisch a three-page paper that estimated the energy released in a nuclear chain reaction and how one could devised an atomic bomb from small amount of fissable uranium-235. This paper sparked the interest of British and American authorities which would eventually lead to the Manhattan Project. Peierls joined the Manhattan project in 1943, being excluded of joining in the early years because of his German origin. After the war, Peierls reassumed its position in the physics department at Birmingham university where we worked until 1963 before joining the University of Oxford. He was knighted in 1968. He retired from Oxford in 1974. He wrote several books including The Laws of Nature (1955), Surprises in Theoretical Physics (1979), More Surprises in Theoretical Physics (1991) and an autobiography, Bird of Passage (1985).
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