Walton, Ernest Thomas Sinton

Physicist, born on 6 October 1903 at Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, the son of an amateur astronomer, the Rev, John A. Walton (1874-1936; e.m. 1897; President of the Irish Conference, 1934). He was educated at Methodist College, Belfast and Trinity College, Dublin. He inherited his father's natural curiosity, choosing the field of experimental physics, gaining first class honours and a gold medal. From Dublin he went to the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, under Rutherford's supervision. In 1932 he and his colleague John Cockcroft first 'split the atom', for which they were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1951. In 1934 he returned to teach in the comparatively quiet backwaters of Trinity College, where he remained in spite of an invitation to join the Manhattan Project working to produce the atomic bomb. He was a local preacher and remained a man of peace and deep religious faith throughout his life. He was a governor of Methodist College, Belfast and of Wesley College, Dublin. He died in Belfast on 25 June 1995.

  • Methodist Recorder, 20 December 1951
  • B. Cathcart, in Gerard O'Brien and Peter Roebuck (eds.), Nine Ulster Lives (Belfast, 1992) pp.13-31
  • Times, 29 June 1995
  • Vincent J. McBrierty, Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton: the Irish scientist (Dublin, 2003)
  • Trevor W. Mulryne and David R.S. Gallagher (eds.), Physics & Faith: the life and work of Ernest Walton, physicist and Nobel laureate... (Belfast, [2003])
  • Oxford DNB