Charles Glover Barkla

Nobel Prize physicist, Chair in Natural Philosophy.

barkla plaque


Charles Glover Barkla was born in Widnes, Lancashire, in June 1877, educated in Liverpool, and studied Maths and Physics at University College, Liverpool, in 1894.

Graduating with a first class honours degree in Physics in 1898, he went on to gain a masters degree the following year.


Over the next decade, Barkla progressed through a series of positions at Trinity College Cambridge, and King’s College and University Colleges in London.

He took up the Chair in Natural Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh in 1913.

Barkla's research

Barkla's most significant research centred around the physics of X-rays.

Along with C A Sadler, he was the first to demonstrate that X-rays consist of waves oscillating in different planes that can be separated.

This discovery transformed understanding of X-rays, showing that they have similar properties to light.

His most significant work was on the characteristic X-ray emitting properties of the chemical elements, which won him a Nobel Prize in 1917.

Nobel Prize

Barkla was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 1917 "for his discovery of the characteristic Röntgen radiation of the elements".

The Nobel Prize in Physics 1917

The plaque

Barkla’s plaque is in the vicinity of the Canongate, near the School of Education buildings.