Joseph John Thomson, English physicist, c 1920s.
3 0 c m
actual image size: 32cm x 22cm

Joseph John Thomson, English physicist, c 1920s.

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library


Thomson (1856-1940) discoverer of the electron, photographed writing at his desk. After graduating from Trinity College, Cambridge, Thomson (as Cavendish Profesor) turned the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, into the most important centre for physics research in the world. In 1896 he began experiments on cathode rays, proving that they are particles with a negative charge and much smaller than an atom - particles later renamed 'electrons'. In 1912 he went on to develop mas spectrometry.

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