At the age of 20 he went to Cambridge and, eight years later, succeeded James Clerk Maxwell as Cavendish Professor of Physics.
"Things have come to a pretty pass when mere boys are appointed professors," sniffed a colleague.
He won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1906 and seven of his students were to win Nobel prizes.
27 of his students were elected to the RoyalAcademy. He was knighted in 1908.
And he discovered the electron.
MORAL: Apprenticeships aren't the be-all and end-all.