Charles Drummond Ellis
Sir Charles Drummond Ellis (b.Hampstead
Hampstead is an area of London, England, north-west of Charing Cross. Part of the London Borough of Camden in Inner London, it is known for its intellectual, liberal, artistic, musical and literary associations and for Hampstead Heath, a large, hilly expanse of parkland...

, 11 August 1895; died Cookham
Cookham is a village and civil parish in the north-easternmost corner of Berkshire in England, on the River Thames, notable as the home of the artist Stanley Spencer. It lies north of Maidenhead close to the border with Buckinghamshire...

 10 January 1980) was a physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

 and scientific administrator. His work on the magnetic spectrum of the beta-rays helped to develop a better understanding of nuclear structure.

Education and internment

Ellis was the son of Abraham Charles Ellis, a general manager of the Metropolitan Railway, and Isabelle Flockart Carswell. He won a scholarship to Harrow School
Harrow School
Harrow School, commonly known simply as "Harrow", is an English independent school for boys situated in the town of Harrow, in north-west London.. The school is of worldwide renown. There is some evidence that there has been a school on the site since 1243 but the Harrow School we know today was...

 where he excelled academically as well as at sport. In 1913 he become a cadet
A cadet is a trainee to become an officer in the military, often a person who is a junior trainee. The term comes from the term "cadet" for younger sons of a noble family.- Military context :...

 in the Royal Military Academy in preparation for a career in the Royal Engineers
Royal Engineers
The Corps of Royal Engineers, usually just called the Royal Engineers , and commonly known as the Sappers, is one of the corps of the British Army....


He was holidaying in Germany the following summer when World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 broke out. All British nationals were rounded up and sent to the Ruhleben P.O.W. Camp
Ruhleben P.O.W. Camp
Ruhleben P.O.W. Camp was a civilian detention camp during World War I. It was located in Ruhleben, then a village to the west of Berlin, now split between the districts of Spandau and Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf...

 just outside Berlin. The camp had been a horse racecourse. During internment the detainees had a large degree of freedom. They had access to books, and Ellis made good use of his time to study. Another detainee in the camp was James Chadwick
James Chadwick
Sir James Chadwick CH FRS was an English Nobel laureate in physics awarded for his discovery of the neutron....

 who was later to receive the Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

 for his work on the discovery of the neutron
The neutron is a subatomic hadron particle which has the symbol or , no net electric charge and a mass slightly larger than that of a proton. With the exception of hydrogen, nuclei of atoms consist of protons and neutrons, which are therefore collectively referred to as nucleons. The number of...

. Chadwick inspired Ellis and together they erected a laboratory in one of the horse stables where they undertook scientific experiments on the photochemical process.

Career after the war

After the war Ellis decided to abandon a military career. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

 where he studied natural sciences. After graduating in 1920 he became engaged in research work at the Cavendish Laboratory
Cavendish Laboratory
The Cavendish Laboratory is the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge, and is part of the university's School of Physical Sciences. It was opened in 1874 as a teaching laboratory....

, Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

, where the director, Sir Ernest Rutherford
Ernest Rutherford
Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson OM, FRS was a New Zealand-born British chemist and physicist who became known as the father of nuclear physics...

, had now engaged Chadwick. While Rutherford and Chadwick worked on alpha radioactivity and alpha particles for nuclear disintegration experiments Ellis studied beta and gamma radiation. He became a leading authority on the subject, publishing many articles in scientific journals.

In 1921 Ellis had become a fellow of Trinity College and was appointed assistant lecturer in natural science. In 1925 he married Paula Warzcewska, the daughter of a wealthy Polish shipbuilder. Although there were no children Paula (known as Polly in England) had a daughter from a previous marriage. In 1929 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...


In 1930 Rutherford, Chadwick and Ellis published together a classic monograph Radiations from Radioactive Substances.

Discovery of the neutrino

During the early 1930s Ellis worked with Nevill Mott on energy relations in beta decay
Beta decay
In nuclear physics, beta decay is a type of radioactive decay in which a beta particle is emitted from an atom. There are two types of beta decay: beta minus and beta plus. In the case of beta decay that produces an electron emission, it is referred to as beta minus , while in the case of a...

. Mott said later that Ellis had “practically discovered the neutrino
A neutrino is an electrically neutral, weakly interacting elementary subatomic particle with a half-integer spin, chirality and a disputed but small non-zero mass. It is able to pass through ordinary matter almost unaffected...

”. He worked with W.J.Henderson on the energy distribution of positron
The positron or antielectron is the antiparticle or the antimatter counterpart of the electron. The positron has an electric charge of +1e, a spin of ½, and has the same mass as an electron...

s in artificial radioactivity. In 1936, a year after Chadwick’s appointment to a professorship at Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

, Ellis was appointed to the Wheatstone chair of physics at King's College London
King's College London
King's College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and a constituent college of the federal University of London. King's has a claim to being the third oldest university in England, having been founded by King George IV and the Duke of Wellington in 1829, and...

 in succession to Edward Victor Appleton
Edward Victor Appleton
Sir Edward Victor Appleton, GBE, KCB, FRS was an English physicist.-Biography:Appleton was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire and educated at Hanson Grammar School. At the age of 18 he won a scholarship to St John's College, Cambridge...

 who had become professor of natural sciences at Cambridge. Ellis continued his research alongside his new teaching and administration commitments.

In 1940 Ellis became a member of MAUD who were investigating the possibility of using nuclear fission to develop new weapons. He became scientific adviser to the army council from 1943–1946, serving on several high-level committees. He was knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

ed in 1946 for his war service.

Later career

After World War II Ellis held several posts which were not related to nuclear weapons. He was director of the Finance Corporation for Industry, in charge of research and development for the National Coal Board
National Coal Board
The National Coal Board was the statutory corporation created to run the nationalised coal mining industry in the United Kingdom. Set up under the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946, it took over the mines on "vesting day", 1 January 1947...

. He was president of the British Coal Utilization Research Association from 1946–1955 and a member of the advisory council to the minister of fuel and power from 1947 to 1955. He became scientific adviser to the British American Tobacco Company (BAT) at a time when the association between smoking
Smoking is a practice in which a substance, most commonly tobacco or cannabis, is burned and the smoke is tasted or inhaled. This is primarily practised as a route of administration for recreational drug use, as combustion releases the active substances in drugs such as nicotine and makes them...

and various diseases was just starting to be suspected. He retired from the Gas Council in 1966 and from BAT in 1972.

During his final decade his health was poor. In 1980 he died in a nursing home in Cookham after a short illness.
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