J.J. Thomson and the Discovery of the Electron

J.J. Thomson and the Discovery of the Electron

J.J. Thomson and the Discovery of the Electron

J.J. Thomson and the Discovery of the Electron

Synopsis

This volume maps the life and career of J.J. Thomson, outlining his education and career, with a particular focus on the work leading up to his landmark discovery of the electron and its implications for the development of physics.

Excerpt

In this book we aim to give a readable account of J.J. Thomson's work on the electron, in the context of his life and other scientific work. We also hope to give enough background to help the reader interpret the original papers which are reproduced at the ends of Chapters 2-6. These are important reading for anyone who wants to get an insight into Thomson and his way of thinking, besides being historically significant in themselves.

However, this approach has its limitations, which we enter here. This is not a biography. Thomson was a brilliant man, both personally and intellectually, and the electron work was just one episode in a many-faceted career. Nor is this a full account of the discovery of the electron. Many people, now largely forgotten, contributed to the idea of the electron. While we mention some, we do not list all of them, and do not discuss their work in any detail. To many German physicists in the early nineteenth century, the contributions of Lorentz, Zeeman, Wiechert and Kaufmann, for example, were seen as of major importance. We hope that some day their story will also be told.

The authors wish to thank the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, for permission to reproduce the Plates on pp. 21, 22, 49, 57, 58, 81, 82, 115, 116, 127, 128, 197, 198, 201, 202, 207 and 213, and Keith Papworth for supplying them. Cambridge University Library is acknowledged for providing access to original manuscripts and for permission to reproduce the Plate on p. iii. The Plates on pp. ii, 2, 12, 50, 117, 118, 208, 213 and 214 are reproduced from original photographs owned by J.J.'s grandson, David Thomson, to whom we are grateful for their loan, for his cooperation generally and most of all for writing the illuminating Foreword to this book. Finally we thank Andrew Carrick, David Courtney, Sarah Ramirez and Maureen Allen for their assistance with production and Stephanie Brooks for typing several sections of the manuscript.

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