Charles Barkla Scientific Research as Quest for God!

Augustine Pamplany CST

Charles Glover Barkla (1877-1943) was an English physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1917 for his work in X-ray spectroscopy. He was born in a middle class family and educated in mathematics and physics. Having completed his Master’s degree, he proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge with a Scholarship by the Royal Commission. Since 1913, Barkla was the Chair in Natural Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh to and he held this office to the end of his life.

In his research he focused on Rontgen radiation. He linked the homogeneous radiations characteristic of the elements with the spectra in X-Ray. He also showed the applicability and limitation of quantum theory in relation to Rontgen radiation. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his contributions in this field.

In his personal life, he was so fond of music and singing. With his powerful bass voice he was a stimulating singer and was a member of the King’s College Chapel Choir. He died on October 23, 1944.

In regard to his religious faith he was a strong Methodist. He has openly stated that he considered his work to be “part of the quest for God, the Creator.” H.S. Allen recollects that he “was a deeply religious man, and like his ancestors was a faithful adherent of the Methodist Church.” His biographer Isobel Falconer makes the following comments about him: “Barkla was tall, well built, and conservative in dress, with a friendly manner, especially with children. He always preferred living in rural surroundings. A staunch Methodist, he saw scientific investigation as ‘a part of the quest for God, the Creator’.”

The example of Barkla confirms that religious belief is not an impediment to creativity, as alleged by several atheists. Rather, statistics shows that more than 80% of the Nobel laureates were associated with one of the religions.

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