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World Year of Physics - William Sutherland at the University of Melbourne


William Sutherland (1859-1911), graduate of Wesley College, the University of Melbourne (M.A. 1883, 1st class honours in Natural Science) and University College London (BSc 1881, 1st class honours) was a theoretical Physicist associated with the Department of Natural Philosophy at the University of Melbourne. He served as acting professor in 1899 to replace Professor Sir Thomas Lyle who was on leave.

From 1901 he was also a writer for The Age newspaper, especially on scientific topics.

He derived an equation for the diffusion of a solute into a solvent based on fundamental atomic and molecular models relating diffusion to viscosity. This same equation was obtained independently by Einstein and appears in Einstein's papers on Brownian motion of 1905 as well as Einstein's PhD thesis. Sutherland's innovation was to introduce the idea of an attractive electric force between gas molecules that could be successfully used to acount for many previously unexplained properties.

For a longer essay on William Sutherland, click here.

Biographical entry

 William Sutherland in his twentieth year.Portait of William Sutherland  
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