A glowing sphere with text that reads: Inspired by Bragg - Collaboration beyond boundaries.

Inspired by Bragg brings together minds and ideas from across the University of Leeds and beyond to celebrate Sir William Henry Bragg - a former professor at Leeds who was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915.

Throughout 2022, we're commemorating this legacy in the launch of a £96m research and teaching facility that bears his name.

Collaboration is at the heart of our work – bringing together colleagues and communities across disciplines and institutions. We're breaking down traditional boundaries to build new connections between education, research and industries on a global scale.

Discover how we're inspiring a new generation of students and researchers, and find out how you can take part in our series of international events.

Join our events

Think beyond boundaries - connect with our community.

Two people viewing exhibits in a gallery, which includes a portrait of Bragg and a various scientific instruments.

WH Bragg and his son William Lawrence were curious, creative and prepared to think beyond traditional subject boundaries. That's why Inspired by Bragg combines scientific events with a lively cultural programme, casting light on the interdisciplinary approach that underpins research at Leeds.

In a novel collaboration across the University, our cultural producers are using the life and work of WH Bragg, with the current research of The Bragg Centre, to develop an inspiring programme of activities. These will include:

  • a newly commissioned poem, to be performed at the opening of the building
  • a children’s book which will celebrate the story of WH Bragg and his son William Lawrence, with a clear link to their discoveries
  • musical compositions, as part of the University’s International Concert Series
  • narrative theatre pieces inspired by Bragg’s life
  • activities for Light Night, an annual art and light festival in Leeds.

Our producers include the University of Leeds Poetry Centre, Public Engagement with Research, stage@leeds, Leeds University Library Galleries, and the School of Music.

The Cultural Institute works with a range of cultural and creative partners to increase pioneering research, widen cultural engagement, and enhance student opportunity.

New facilities for real-world impact

The William Henry Bragg building opens the door to global innovation and life-changing student education.

An image of a research at the Leeds Nanotechnology Cleanroom, examining an etching.

A researcher examining an etching in the Nanotechnology Cleanroom, Bragg Centre.

A researcher examining an etching in the Nanotechnology Cleanroom, Bragg Centre.

The state-of-the-art Sir William Henry Bragg building is part of an engineering and physical sciences hub on the north-east corner of our campus, bringing together the Schools of Physics & Astronomy, Computing, Robotics and the Bragg Centre for Materials Research.

Our first-class laboratories and specialised teaching spaces will provide some of the most advanced facilities in the country, enabling world-leading research and an outstanding student experience.

These facilities include a clean room to eradicate contaminants, control electromagnetic interference, and manage temperature and humidity. Our Wolfson Imaging Facility offers instrumentation that enables scientists to see molecules interacting in real time – the first facility in the UK to do so.

Our researchers will also have access to a 150m2 mock medical operating theatre, that will allow the Robotics at Leeds research group to develop life-saving robotic systems for medicine and healthcare. 

A view of the side of the Bragg building, showing The Worlds of If sculpture.

‘The Worlds of If’ sculpture by Sara Barker, Sir William Henry Bragg Building. It is based on Bragg’s breakthrough equation and explores the connection between art and science. As you move around the sculpture, the symbols representing Bragg's research are gradually revealed.

‘The Worlds of If’ sculpture by Sara Barker, Sir William Henry Bragg Building. It is based on Bragg’s breakthrough equation and explores the connection between art and science. As you move around the sculpture, the symbols representing Bragg's research are gradually revealed.

One of the challenges already being investigated by the team at Leeds is the transition to a net zero carbon-emitting economy, and how novel materials and processes can play a critical role. Interdisciplinary research will support the design, modelling and fabrication of the materials needed to deliver energy-efficient electronics, resulting in new devices, systems and applications in the years ahead.

Just as the Braggs left their legacy on the world, this sophisticated facility is an investment in the University’s research capability for the future.

Find out how the Sir William Henry Bragg building is helping to address 21st century challenges.

The Braggs and their work

How breakthrough research at Leeds leaves a legacy for the future.

A landscape image of William Bragg and Lawrence Bragg.

William Bragg and Lawrence Bragg at the British Association, Toronto, 1924. Credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives

William Bragg and Lawrence Bragg at the British Association, Toronto, 1924. Credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives

The Braggs were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915 for their pioneering research at Leeds. Their work involved the proposal of an equation that allowed the position of atoms within crystals to be determined from X-ray photographs.

In a Leeds workshop, William and Lawrence developed and built a scientific instrument called an X-ray spectrometer which was used to measure the way X-rays scattered. By directing them through matter and recording the resulting diffraction pattern on photographic plates, the pair determined the atomic structure of crystallised materials.

Ever since, X-ray crystallography has been used throughout the world to reveal the structure of molecules fundamental to life.

An archive photograph of WH Bragg holding the Spectrometer device.

WH Bragg with Spectrometer, 1922. Image courtesy of the Royal Institution Archive.

WH Bragg with Spectrometer, 1922. Image courtesy of the Royal Institution Archive.

Their work has helped shape many modern-day applications – from drug development to computers and astronomy. Medical ultrasound devices, fuel injectors in cars, and SONAR in submarines all rely on materials developed using X-ray crystallography.

When applied to the molecules of life, they ushered in the age of molecular biology and genetics – most famously as the technique that revealed the structure of DNA to James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953.

For an idea of the significance of what they achieved, the Braggs began their work on crystallography in 1909, and received their Nobel Prize within six years. In 2013, their work was named the third most important British innovation of the 20th century in an online vote of 80,000 people.

The equation, nλ = 2 d sin θ, is also known as Bragg’s Law.