In a nutshell
Williams was a brilliant user of quantum mechanics, predicting the existence of a new atomic particle, the meson.
Track RecordA brilliant physicist, EJ Williams was invited to work with the giants of international physics of the day. He made himself and others try to visualise what was happening on an atomic scale.
How we understand atomic collisions - X-rays passing through gases or the impact of fast electrons on atoms - still owes a lot to EJ Williams, even when now, 60 years later, new particles have been discovered which Williams knew nothing about.
As with other eminent scifiles, he was seconded to the Forces during the Second World War. Here, too, his brilliant capacity to analyse problems was put to good use in the struggle against the devastating efficiency of the German U-boats (submarines). His insight played an important part in ultimately eliminating this enemy action, an action which had devastated British ships at the cost of many lives.
His particular scientific area of work was the study of the mechanism of the collisions of atomic particles. What exactly is happening when, for example, electrons hit atoms? Williams was always trying to picture exactly what was happening.
With this emphasis he could be described as a classical physicist, in the tradition of Newton and Faraday. But he recognised that a new sort of mechanics had been created. Providing important predictions of atomic events, this is now called quantum mechanics.