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July 2, 1876|
|Died||April 17, 1933 (aged 56)|
|Alma mater||McGill University|
|Known for||Discoverer of atomic recoil|
|Academic advisors||Ernest Rutherford|
Harriet Brooks (July 2, 1876 – April 17, 1933) was the first Canadian woman nuclear physicist. She is most famous for her research on nuclear transmutations and radioactivity. Ernest Rutherford, who guided her graduate work, regarded her as being next to Marie Curie in the calibre of her aptitude.
She was the first graduate student of Ernest Rutherford (then professor at McGill University), under whom she worked immediately after graduating. With him she worked on electricity and magnetism for her Master's degree in 1901. She was the first ever woman at McGill to receive a Master's degree.
After her Master's again under Rutherford she also did a series of experiments to determine the nature of the radioactive emissions from thorium. These experiments served as the foundation for the development of nuclear science.
For a brief period she also worked under the supervision of Marie Curie.
In 1904 Brooks was appointed to the faculty of Barnard College.
In 1907 she married Frank Pitcher and left the field of physics since it was then mandatory in universities for any woman to resign from her job after getting married.
An obituary for Harriet Brooks was published by the New York Times on April 18, 1933, recording that she had died the previous day in Montreal at the age of 57, crediting her as the "Discoverer of the Recoil of a Radioactive Atom." Brooks is considered one of the leading women of her time in the field of nuclear physics, second only to Marie Curie. She is a member of the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame.
- Rayner-Canham, Marelene F.; Rayner-Canham, Geoffrey W. (1992). Harriet Brooks: Pioneer Nuclear Scientist. McGill-Queen’s University Press. ISBN 0-7735-1254-3.