Charles Sanders Peirce: Contributions to "The Nation" - Vol. 3

By Kenneth Laine Ketner; James Edward Cook | Go to book overview

1906

82 (18 January 1906) 61

Radio-Activity.

By E. Rutherford. Second edition. Cambridge (Eng.): University Press; New
York: Macmillan. 1905. 8vo., pp. 580.

CSP, identification: Haskell, Index to The Nation. See also: Burks, Bibliography; List of
Articles
; MSS 1502, 1502(s) (drafts).

Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937), Baron Rutherford of Nelson, was born in New Zealand.
In a competition for a scholarship to Cambridge, Rutherford finished second, but went on to
the University when the winner decided to remain at home and marry. This was a for-
tunate turn of events for science, for Rutherford, under the guidance of J. J. Thomson,
brought forth many great discoveries. He is credited with having discovered alpha and beta
rays (now called particles), the radioactive half-life, and the proton. In 1908, Rutherford
observed the scattering of alpha particles when passed through a sheet of gold, which led
him to evolve the theory of the nuclear atom. For this work, he was awarded the Nobel
Prize in chemistry in 1908. He was knighted in 1914 and is buried in Westminster Abbey
near Newton and Kelvin.

A throng of public sensations due to advances in natural science crowd upon a sexagenarian's recollection (Stewart's syrup was the greatest personal sensation of his infancy), e. g., vulcanized rubber; daguerreotypes; the telegraph; Dr. William T. G. Morton's demonstration of the anæthetic property of ether (and the ether wonder was not a week old when news came of the discovery of the planet Neptune), the same memorable year bringing straw paper, gun-cotton, and the sewing-machine; the stereoscope; then, the doctrine of the conservation of energy, long debated, though at first pooh-poohed by scientific magnates; the mechanical theory of heat; the Ruhmkhorff coil; Foucault's pendulum experiment; Bessemer iron; aniline dye-stuffs; the Atlantic cable; wood pulp; Pasteur's refutation of spontaneous generation as an ordinary event; spectroscopic analysis with rubidium and caesium; the theory of natural selection; Deville's aluminium; the extensive use of nitroglycerine; Andrews's discovery of the critical temperature; the wonderful Holtz machine of 1865 (the simultaneous and equivalent Töpler machine somehow being less noised abroad), and, three years later, the Gramme dynamo; in 1869 Mendeléeff's periodic law; then a long calm, hardly broken by such successes as that made by the ammonia soda process, or such half successes as Loomis's wireless telegraphy, which, however, came into wider notice in 1877, when the telephone and phonograph had turned public attention into that channel; the first confirmation of Mendeléeff's law in the discovery of the metal gallium, duly melting, according to prediction, in the warmth of a man's palm; the azodyes; Pasteur's germ-theory, followed by Koch's detection of the tuberclebacillus, and, later, by the enzyme theory; osmotic pressure; the incandescent light; stereochemistry; Weismannism; Cowles's aluminium; smokeless powder; kodaks; the new physical chemistry guided by Willard Gibbs's phase rule, and leading to liquid air and hydrogen; the successful linotype (though that can hardly be reckoned as a scientific sensation); Hall's aluminium; the electric furnace and acetylene; argon; the Röntgen rays; the flutter about Herzian waves; the contact

-254-

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