Professor Walton was born in 'Epworth Cottage', Strandside South, Abbeyside in October 1903. He was the son of the local Methodist minister, John Arthur Walton. His mother was Ann Elizabeth Sinton, from Tandragee, Co. Armagh. When Ernest was nine the family moved to Cookstown, Co. Tyrone. He was educated at the Methodist College, Belfast, and later at T.C.D. where he graduated in maths in 1926.
A year later he was awarded the prestigious 1851 great Exhibition Overseas Research Scholarship in nuclear research at Lord Rutherford's Cavendish laboratory in Cambridge. Cavendish was a grandson of the 2nd. Duke of Devonshire. Ernest Rutherford, a well-known scientist, was its director and was interested in atomic research. On 14 April 1932 Walton split the atom with Sir John Cockroft. In recognition of this work they shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1951. Ernest Walton was the only Irish scientist ever to receive this honour.
In 1934 Walton returned to T.C.D. as a fellow and in 1946 was appointed Erasmus Smith professor of natural and experimental philosophy. After retirement in 1974 he went to live in Belfast but continued to visit and work in the Physics Department of T.C.D. In November 1989 Professor Walton was given a Civic reception in Dungarvan and the new park in Abbeyside was re-named the 'Walton Causeway Park' in his honour. He died in a Belfast hospital on 25 June 1995. He was predeceased by his wife in 1983 and survived by two sons and two daughters.
Author: William Fraher