Fable: The Lost Apprentice

156 years ago a son was born to a Manchester bookseller. His father died before he could be apprenticed to an engineer and, consequently lacking the fees for an apprenticeship, the boy went to school where he loved mathematics and physics.

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.


One comment

  1. JJ Thomson and his theories of plum pudding atoms. I’ve always had this image of him accidentally biting on a stray plum stone during a college dinner and shouting ‘eureka!’.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *