Open main menu

Ronald Wilfred Gurney

Ronald Wilfred (or Wilfrid) Gurney (1898, in Cheltenham,[1] England – 14 April 1953, in New York, New York)[2] was a British theoretical physicist and research pupil of William Lawrence Bragg at the Victoria University of Manchester during the 1920s and 1930s, Bristol University during the 1930s and later in the USA,[2] where he died.

Radioactive decay processesEdit

Whilst at the Palmer Physical Laboratory at Princeton University from 1926–28,[1] he discovered alpha decay via quantum tunnelling, together with Edward Condon and independently of George Gamow. In the early 1900s, radioactive materials were known to have characteristic exponential decay rates or half lives. At the same time, radiation emissions were known to have certain characteristic energies. By 1928, Gamow had solved the theory of the alpha decay of a nucleus via quantum tunnelling and the problem was also solved independently by Gurney and Condon.[3][4][5] Gurney and Condon did not, however, produce the quantitative results achieved by Gamow in his work.


  • Elementary quantum mechanics, Cambridge [Eng.] The University Press, 1934.
  • Introduction to statistical mechanics, New York, McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1949.
  • Electronic Processes in Ionic Crystals (1940, physics; with N.F. Mott)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Proc. R. Soc. Lond. A 371, 56-66 (1980) "Memories of early days in solid state physics", N F Mott FRS, Accessed 7 April 2010
  2. ^ a b Bristol (University) Physics in the 1930s, Sir Neville Mott, Melville Wills Chair of Theoretical Physics, Bristol University 1933-ca.1953
  3. ^ R W Gurney and E U Condon, "Quantum Mechanics and Radioactive Disintegration" Nature 122, 439 (1928); Phys. Rev. 33, 127 (1929)
  4. ^ Interview with Hans Bethe by Charles Weiner and Jagdish Mehra at Cornell University, 27 October 1966 accessed 5 April 2010
  5. ^ Friedlander, Gerhart; Kennedy, Joseph E; Miller, Julian Malcolm (1964). Nuclear and Radiochemistry, 2nd edition. New York, London, Sydney: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 225–7. ISBN 978-0-471-86255-0.