(born Feb. 14, 1869, Glencorse, Midlothian, Scot.—died Nov. 15, 1959, Carlops, Peeblesshire) Scottish physicist. His invention of the Wilson cloud chamber, a device that became widely used in the study of radioactivity, X rays, cosmic rays, and other particle phenomena, also led to the later development of the bubble chamber. He shared the 1927 Nobel Prize for Physics with Arthur Compton.
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He thereafter became particularly interested in meteorology, and in 1893 he began to study clouds and their properties. He worked for some time at the observatory on Ben Nevis, where he made observations of cloud formation. He then tried to reproduce this effect on a smaller scale in the laboratory in Cambridge, expanding humid air within a sealed container. He later experimented with the creation of cloud trails in his chamber caused by ions and radiation. For the invention of the cloud chamber he received the Nobel Prize in 1927.
The Wilson Society, the natural sciences society of Sidney Sussex College, is also named for him.