Lawrence Bragg a top student at St Peter's College but out of step with older classmates

Lawrence Bragg went through St Peter's College (pictured in 1900) with much older classmates.
Image courtesy State Library of South Australia

Lawrence Bragg started at St Peter's College in 1901, benefitting from the positive changes made to the school since 1894 when the Rev. Henry Girdlestone took over as headmaster.

Girdlestone, an Oxford science graduate, in 1900 divided the college’s curriculum into classical, scientiļ¬c and commercial. He built a chemistry laboratory and lecture room. That year James Simpson Thomson, the legendary chemistry master, joined the staff.

Age 11, Lawrence Bragg was in the fifth form and doing a public examination at the end of his first year. Precocious in lessons, he found his social immaturity compared to his class mates a great handicap.

He studied English language and literature, Latin, Greek, French, scripture, mathematics and chemistry, but not German or physics. In class, Lawrence and his friend Bob Chapman solved the problems that defeated the mathematics master. In chemistry, J.S. Thomson inspired Lawrence’s interest in school science.

In 1904, he topped the mathematics, chemistry and French exams, as well as Form VI overall, and was awarded a Christ Church Scholarship. He passed the higher public examination the next year with credits in pure and applied mathematics and inorganic chemistry and won a Farrell open scholarship.

Lawrence Bragg won the college cup at the School Sports of 1905, with a win in the 100 yards handicap. He rowed regularly in school and public regattas, and stroked the St Peter’s maiden four at the public schools races the same year. He took a leading part in the college’s newly-formed literary and debating society of the college. His school experiences in many ways paralleled those of his father William.

Lawrence’s brother Robert Bragg entered St Peter’s in 1905 at the age of 12.

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